City of Columbia passes stolen gun ordinance

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Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 5:04 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Columbia residents will now be required to report lost or stolen firearms to police within 24 hours or face a $500 fine.

Columbia city council unanimously passed its second reading of the ordinance at its council meeting Tuesday, which means it becomes law immediately.

Councilman Ed McDowell, the only council member to vote against the ordinance on the first reading, was not present Tuesday.

Councilwoman Dr. Aditi Bussells, who proposed the ordinance, told WIS before Tuesday’s meeting that she had been looking for ways that the city can help curb violence, and was inspired to act following the Columbiana mall shooting in April.

“We can’t do everything, but we can do our part,” she said. “So why not us find a solution that allows us to continue to make the statement that we care about addressing violence in our communities, but still being under the purview of what a local government can do.”

City officials hope to provide law enforcement with another tool in its toolbox, as the Columbia Police Department and the Richland County Sheriff’s Department have been vocal about the issue of stolen guns in recent years.

RELATED STORY: City of Columbia considering new ordinance to require reporting of lost, stolen firearms to police

Columbia had the third-highest rate of guns stolen from cars of all 271 reviewed in a recent Everytown for Gun Safety study.

When asked how she would respond to those who believe this is too steep a fine, Bussells pointed to that study.

“If you could do your part and it’s a pretty low-risk effort to be able to report that something is lost or stolen, and you can keep that life from being lost or keep that kid from being injured, why wouldn’t you?” she said. “This is a very simple way to make a significant impact on your community.”

Through conversations with the Columbia city council’s public safety committee, which reviewed the ordinance, Bussells said the fine was determined to be a more suitable form of enforcement than a criminal penalty.

She added that the accountability and responsibility components of the ordinance were important.

“They really didn’t want to be penalizing a victim of a crime already which is that their gun may have been lost or stolen,” Bussells said. “And so by putting on a civil penalty, it’s still making sure that there’s some responsibility behind reporting that lost or stolen firearm, but you’re not further criminalizing somebody who is already a victim of a crime.”

This is Bussells’ first city ordinance in her nine months on the council. She said it is a “great feeling.”

“I completely attribute that to how engaged our community members, law enforcement, and some of these relationships are in terms of moving our city forward,” she said. “I’m looking forward to continuing to push forward change and make sure that we find bold solutions to the problems that we’re facing.”

Columbia city council repealed three gun ordinances earlier this year after Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office said the city overstepped its ability to regulate guns in those instances.

Bussells said she has received assurances from the Attorney General’s office that this law will stay on the books.

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