While there’s been a lot of handwringing by anti-gun activists over the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement, which they claim undermines the rule of law, I haven’t noticed any of them complain when anti-gun politicians pass local gun control ordinances in violation of state firearms preemption laws. The latest example of the hypocrisy of the gun control movement comes from Columbia, South Carolina, where Mayor Steve Benjamin signed two local gun ordinances into law in September, despite South Carolina’s firearm preemption law.
The first ordinance bans possession of a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school, and another establishing a local “red flag” law. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has now fired off a letter to the mayor warning him about the violations of state law.
“In an effort to uphold the rule of law and to ensure the protection of taxpayers, this office strongly urges that these ordinances be repealed,” Wilson wrote Tuesday. “The ordinances not only undermine state law, but undercut the Second Amendment. They are an open invitation to costly litigation for which the municipal taxpayers must pay.”
Wilson bolstered his letter to the mayor with a pair of opinions from his office. State Rep. Jonathon Hill, a Republican from Townville, requested an attorney general’s opinion on Columbia’s extreme risk protection order law, while State Sen. Ronnie Cromer, a Republican from Prosperity, and state Rep. Bill Hixon, a Republican from North Augusta, asked for an opinion on the school zone ordinance.
In both opinions, among other findings, the attorney general’s office says that state law takes precedent in terms of firearm regulation.
“With but a few exceptions, a city or county cannot interject itself into the regulation of firearms,” Wilson writes. “Yet, the City of Columbia has done so repeatedly.”
It’s not just the city of Columbia. Anti-gun activists have launched a national campaign against firearms preemption laws, from Pittsburgh to Seattle, and plenty of cities in between. Even rural states like Montana aren’t immune to the efforts by gun control advocates to undo statewide firearms preemption laws. Yet these same activists claim that Second Amendment Sanctuaries are somehow an affront to the rule of law, while their efforts are courageous steps to ensure “commonsense gun safety” laws. Give me a break.
As the Post & Courier notes in its coverage of the South Carolina situation, Columbia’s mayor has tried this before. He signed a local ordinance banning “ghost guns” earlier this year, even before he signed these latest restrictions.
Benjamin has been bullish on gun issues in Columbia. Aside from the aforementioned ordinances, he also pushed through a ban on gun bump stocks — devices that can make a semi-automatic weapon perform like an automatic weapon — in the city. And he helped usher in the use of ShotSpotter in Columbia, technology that notifies officers of the location of gunshots in near real time.
“In America right now, we have 320 million people and 400 million guns,” the mayor said in a November Free Times piece about ShotSpotter. “A lot of those guns are in the hands of people who don’t deserve them and shouldn’t have them lawfully. Every tool that we can possibly leverage to get our law enforcement officers what they need to keep our community safe, we need to do it.”
Trying to use local misdemeanors to stop gang violence is like using a squirt gun on a five-alarm fire. It’s simply not going to work. The mayor could be out there drumming up support for the Justice Department’s new Project Guardian, which will utilize federal prosecutors to target the most violent offenders in cities like Columbia, but instead, Benjamin is fixated on targeting law-abiding gun owners.
It will likely take a court challenge to get Benjamin’s laws off the books, and that may prove to be difficult since it appears none of the local ordinances have been enforced to this point, which make the mayor’s self-promoting statements about doing anything for public safety ring even more hollow to me. The mayor’s trying to undo firearms preemption laws by passing these local ordinances, not hoping to protect the public. And as long as gun control advocates continue with this strategy, they have no room to criticize counties that pass their own local resolutions and ordinances in defense of the Second Amendment and in defiance of state legislators.