COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The Richland County Council began the process of enacting ordinances on gun safety last night. Jim Manning filed a motion, signed by eight other council members, to determine what Richland County can do on guns.
“If one person who shouldn’t have a gun doesn’t get a gun: that matters,” Manning said. “It matters to that person who doesn’t get shot and killed, it matters to their parents, it matters to their sisters and brothers.”
However, this isn’t the first time in the last few years that Richland County has passed ordinances that surround the issue of guns. Richland County passed an ordinance on the ownership of bump stocks last year after the City of Columbia passed a bump stocks ordinance in 2017.
“I think that we have to be proactive as much as possible as a local elected body,” Manning said.
Jim Manning said that multiple factors contributed to his decision to file the motion, including the shootings that have happened around the country recently and threats here in South Carolina. He said he’s trying to prevent shootings and protect citizens in Richland county.
“Prevention, the idea that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure,” Manning said.
Manning said he would like to see ordinances that pertain to background checks and assault rifles in the county. Manning recognized that passing these types of ordinances is complex, saying that his motion prompts the county’s attorney to look into what the county can legally pass to increase gun safety.
“The subject of background checks, that raises up other issues of privacy that no doubt would be heard from gun owners,” Joe McCullough, a partner at McCullough & Schillaci Law said.
McCullough said that municipalities, like Richland County, can create ordinances in areas where there are no state or federal laws.
South Carolina has preemptive laws, meaning that state laws override local ordinances. However, in areas that don’t have a state or federal law, like the subject of bump stocks, McCullough said municipalities have a case for passing ordinances, which is why Richland County passed an ordinance on bump stocks last year.
McCullough said passing an ordinance on things like background checks might be difficult for the county to do, even if there isn’t a state or federal law on background checks for guns, because of things like state privacy laws.
“To enact local laws, I think it creates an enforceability problem,” McCullough said. “How do they impose and enforce? It’s such a complicated and expensive issue that I think things like background checks would be very different for municipalities to enforce.”
Richland county currently has an ordinance on bump stocks, which prohibit the use of them. However, the federal government proposed a bill this year to ban bump stocks entirely.
McCullough said if this federal bill passes, Richland county would need to make sure their ordinance falls in line with the law. This is because federal and state laws take precedence. Regardless of if the ordinance was passed first.
McCullough said this is a complex area for local governments and that these types of ordinances are always subject to being legally challenged.
Manning said this discussion about new gun ordinances is in the primary stages and he does not know the timeline for the ordinances at this time.