Columbia council members urge city to give up gun control fight

Photo Courtesy of the National Shooting Sports Foundation

Columbia, South Carolina is a spot of blue in a sea of red, and it’s one of the few places in the state where gun control activists have been able to find a footing for their efforts to criminalize the right to keep and bear arms. Back in 2019, the city adopted three local gun control ordinances; a “red-flag” gun seizure law, a ban on possessing firearms within 1,000 feet of a school, and adding buildings where home-built firearms have been made to the city’s nuisance laws.

The measures were an attempt to get around the state’s firearm preemption law, or, failing that, to challenge the law in court, but the city’s efforts came to a crashing halt last year when a state judge declared that, yes, the ordinances violated state law and must be struck from the books.

Since then, council members have been debating whether they should try again or simply give up the fight, and it looks like a final decision could come in the near future. In fact, the council was scheduled to vote on a repeal of the ordinances on March 1st, but delayed the vote because some on the council aren’t ready to call it quits.

Council members in 2019 spent months carefully crafting the gun ordinances to comply with the law, [council member Howard] Duvall said. The city should work with its attorneys on substitute rules aimed at curbing guns that could stay on the books — particularly the provision recognizing the construction of ghost guns as a public nuisance, he said.

“We use the nuisance laws to protect the society from all sorts of things, including sex shops and bars that are illegal and things like that,” Duvall said. “So I think that is a municipal authority. And I think we ought to be able to reconstitute (the ordinance) that so that we’re stating that.”

One of Duvall’s new colleagues wasn’t convinced to continue pursing the regulations.

Councilman Joe Taylor… agreed.

“The city attorney’s advised us that that ordinance has been ruled unconstitutional and therefore it needs to be repealed,” Taylor told The Post and Courier. “Rather than get back into state and national political questions, we need to fill the positions we’ve got available in the city and take care of city business.”

This is a no-brainer, which doesn’t say much for the intellectual firepower of the city council members who are intent on trying to rewrite the local ordinances so that they pass legal muster. Here’s what the pertinent portion of South Carolina’s preemption statute states:

No governing body of any county, municipality, or other political subdivision in the State may enact or promulgate any regulation or ordinance that regulates or attempts to regulate:

(1) the transfer, ownership, possession, carrying, or transportation of firearms, ammunition, components of firearms, or any combination of these things

Duvall’s strategy of declaring home-built guns a public nuisance still runs headlong into the fact that any ordinance doing so would clearly violate the portion of firearms preemption law prohibiting cities like Columbia from regulating gun ownership and possession, period. It doesn’t matter if the gun was built in a basement or purchased at Bass Pro, the city of Columbia has no power or authority to regulate or criminalize its possession.

Instead of continuing its pointless, time-consuming, and costly legal fight for local gun control ordinances that, frankly, wouldn’t have any impact on violent criminals even if they didn’t violate state law, I hope the Columbia city council will repeal these illegal ordinances ASAP and focus their efforts instead on hiring more police and flooding high-crime neighborhoods with both law enforcement and community anti-violence groups that offer at-risk individuals a path away from a life of crime.