Columbia ordinances on guns, hate crimes pass first vote

Updated: Aug. 20, 2019 at 11:51 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Two city ordinances dealing with guns, and another on hate crimes, have passed an initial vote.

Tuesday, Columbia City Council members heard from the public.

One resident wanted an amendment to add protections for gender identity under the hate crime ordinance. That was granted.

Charlie Davis, another resident, had concerns about the hate crime ordinance, saying the council should postpone the vote and give the public more time to weigh in.

“I’m not sure that we need to have two crimes based on what people are thinking," Davis said. "You’re trying to put a crime on somebody based on...their intent, not on their action.”

Davis said he is also worried the passage of a hate crime ordinance could infringe on freedom of speech.

“What’s going to prevent them from going to hate speech?" Davis said. "That would be the next item to start saying, ‘you can’t say something that would offend somebody’ and then to live in this country -- we have a free speech.”

Nonetheless, the hate crime ordinance passed its first vote. It draws up protections for perceived race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation (as defined in Sec. 11-503), disability (as defined in Sec. 11-503) or national origin and now includes gender identity or expression.

Councilman Howard Duvall explained the proposed ordinance would only allow someone to be charged with a hate crime if they are charged with an existing crime, such as assault or battery.

“The crime can be enhanced and it actually runs consecutive to (the sentence) they would get under the crime itself,” one of the city’s legal experts said.

South Carolina is one of four states that does not have a hate crime law.

Also up for a vote was an ordinance that would require people deemed an ‘extreme risk’ by a court to give up their guns temporarily.

“State law doesn’t allow cities to confiscate the weapons,” one of the city’s legal experts said. “So the court can order them to relinquish the weapon either to law enforcement, a law enforcement agency or to a licensed gun dealer that’s willing to take the weapon.”

The proposed ordinance states in part that law enforcement would serve an “extreme risk order” from a court and would have the option to request the firearm at that moment.

Another proposed ordinance that deals with gun-free school zones was voted through, as well. The city wants its ordinance modeled after federal law, but complementing existing state law. Council members said they want to analyze this ordinance more.

What happens if these ordinances get on the books and are violated? Penalties include up to a $500 fine and/or 30 days in jail, Duvall said.

All of these ordinances still need to pass another vote before becoming official. That could come as early as the next council meeting.

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