S.C. AG says Columbia’s new gun ordinances violate Second Amendment, Mayor Benjamin disagrees

Published: Dec. 4, 2019 at 6:34 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The top attorney in South Carolina is questioning the legality of two gun ordinances adopted by the City of Columbia on Dec. 2.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson issued his opinions concerning the ordinances.

One questions the validity of the City of Columbia’s ordinance which involves the transfer and possession of firearms by those having extreme risk protection orders issued against them. This allows officials to remove guns from individuals if they find an extreme risk.

The second ordinance prohibits possessing guns within 1,000 feet of a public or private school.

The AG’s office says that it supports the right of a city or county to protect public safety; however, it believes that state law must be upheld and that the regulation of firearms within Columbia violates such laws.

Wilson also claims Columbia’s ordinances undercut citizen’s Second Amendment rights. The AG’s office has also urged the City of Columbia to repeal its ordinances that regulate firearms stating that “they are an open invitation to costly litigation for which the municipal taxpayers must pay”.

Mayor Steve Benjamin responded to Wilson’s opinions, disagreeing that the city does not have the authority to pass ordinances to protect its citizens from gun violence. Benjamin argues that these ordinances do not go against state law, rather they complement both state and federal law.

Within his response, Benjamin says: “As the City of Columbia has insisted before, S.C. Code Section 5-7-30 permits it to enact ordinances which preserve ‘health, peace, order and good government’ and that it is the first duty of the government of the City of Columbia to protect their people.”

City Council members are also speaking out today.

“As a city council we just feel like we are well within our right and our authority to regulate things that keep our citizens safe,” At-large Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine said.

“Every week you are seeing something regarding gun violence in this country and so we respect people’s gun rights but we also know that we have an obligation to provide a safe environment for our citizens,” Councilwoman Devine said.

Attorney General Alan Wilson wrote in a letter to Mayor Steve Benjamin that the regulation of firearms is beyond the reach of a city or county and that the ordinances not only undermine state law but undercut the second amendment.

“I think having common-sense gun legislation isn’t being anti-guns isn’t violating anyone’s second amendment rights, but what we are doing is protecting our citizens and putting the proper tools in place to make sure our community is safe,” Councilwoman Devine said.

Devine said the Attorney General’s opinion doesn’t change the Council’s standing.

“All due respect, an attorney general’s opinion is just that—an opinion. So unless a court directs us otherwise there is no immediate plans to repeal the ordinances. But even if it does go to court we feel like we have very good legal standing,” Devine said.

Columbia City Council passed a ban on firearms within 250 feet of the statehouse grounds in 2015. The Attorney General found that law to be preempted by state law, meaning that state law already addressed the subject and that it was in violation of the second amendment in 2015. In 2016, a Court found that law to be preempted.

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