COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Thousands of South Carolinians are in a militia, they just may not know it yet.
South Carolina law lays out that able-bodied U.S. Citizen South Carolina residents over the age of 17 are part of the state’s “unorganized militia”.
In the event of an invasion, rebellion, or other insurrection, South Carolina’s governor can call everyday citizens into the armed service.
Title 25 of the state codes reads in part:
“...if the Governor shall have ordered into active service all of the available forces of the National Guard of South Carolina and shall consider them insufficient in numbers to properly accomplish the purpose, he may then in addition order out the unorganized militia or such portion thereof as he may deem necessary and cause them to perform such military duty as the circumstances may require.”
A group of Republican State Senators is attempting to use the presence of the unorganized militia in state law to strengthen gun rights within the state.
Sen. Tom Corbin (R-Greenville) filed S. 614 which would enumerate the weapons the unorganized militia have the right to carry:”...an unorganized militia member, at his own expense, shall have the right to possess and keep all arms that could be legally acquired or possessed by a South Carolina citizen as of December 31, 2020. This includes, but is not limited to, shouldered rifles and shotguns, handguns, clips, magazines, all components, and all ammunition fitted for such weapons;”
The bill also declares the authority over the militia cannot be superseded by any other entity, and allow citizens to exit the militia if they so choose.
Corbin said he is working on an amendment, but the measure is intended to prevent a federal disarming of South Carolina citizens.
“There’s been a lot of fear, especially since the Biden administration that there was going to be some kind of legislation coming out of Washington that might infringe on our second amendment rights so that’s what the bill is targeted to prevent,” he said.
President Biden has been outspoken on efforts to curb gun violence and laid out various proposals to regulate gun sales and tighten loopholes.
Two pieces of gun control legislation have passed the U.S. House so far in March, strengthening gun background checks and reviews for gun purchases.
Their future in the U.S. Senate is uncertain, but federal law does supersede state law through the Supremacy Clause.
Corbin said he is confident in the bill’s legal standing.
Sen. Rex Rice (R-Pickens Co.) co-sponsored the bill and echoed Corbin about concerns over gun control.
He said the unorganized militia provides a pathway for 2nd Amendment preservation and self-protection.
“Everyone of us has the right and the responsibility to protect ourselves, our families, the state of South Carolina, and the United States. We have constitutions that we live by. We should all step up and protect ourselves, and this is a way of doing that,” he said.
Rice and Corbin are joined by four other GOP state senators who sponsor this bill.
WIS reached out to a spokesperson for the SC Senate Democrats for comment.
A Family and Veterans’ Services subcommittee hearing for the bill is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 23.