South Carolina’s capital, the city of Columbia, passed an ordinance Tuesday that bans the use of bump stocks, trigger cranks and other devices that make a firearm fire at a more rapid rate.
“I believe in responsible gun ownership, and I believe in common sense,” Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said in a news release after the ordinance’s passage. “That’s why we’ve decided to do what our federal and state governments are either unable or unwilling to do.”
These types of devices have become a hot point of contention since the Las Vegas shooting on October 1st; the gunman attached bump stocks to the firearms he used to slay 58 innocent concertgoers and injure hundreds more. Since Congress failed to pass any sort of federal ban after the massacre, many states and cities, like Columbia, have decided to take matters into their own hands.
Columbia’s new ordinance prohibits the city’s 134,000-plus residents from attaching bump stocks, trigger cranks and other similar devices to their firearms. Doing so is now considered a misdemeanor. However, unlike many other proposals introduced around the country, the ordinance does not actually outlaw the sale or possession of such devices. In other words, you can still have them, they just must remain separate from your firearms.
Mayor Benjamin also made a comment in the press release about taking the lead on this issue: “This is not the first time we’ve taken the lead, but it may be the most important.”
While Columbia is the first to pass a city-specific ban on bump stocks, it is technically not the first place to prohibit these devices since the Vegas shooting. Back in early November, Massachusetts made it illegal for anyone in the state to sell or posses bump stocks or trigger cranks. California also has a ban on these devices that was put in place before the October 1st shooting.
As The State noted back in December when Columbia’s bump stock ban was first introduced, many cities run into issues when it comes to passing gun-related ordinances because they conflict with state law. Specifically in South Carolina there is a law prohibiting local governments from regulating guns (via The State):
Critics have questioned whether it is legal for the city to institute such a ban, as South Carolina law prohibits local governments from regulating firearms or firearm components.
But city leaders say their ordinance is legally sound, arguing that bump stocks and similar devices are not firearm components, but rather attachments. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also says that bump stocks are not considered a firearm part.
Arizona has a similar law prohibiting local governments from creating their own gun laws, and is the reason Tuscon’s city council members dropped their bump stock ban.
It will be interesting to see if other cities attempt to follow Columbia’s suit – or if they, like Tuscon, will be to too afraid of retaliation by the state government to take action.
According to Reuters, Mayor Benjamin hopes more cities take the risk.
“One of the common refrains that you hear, whether it was in Texas or Vegas or Sandy Hook, is that a good guy with a gun could have stopped the carnage,” Benjamin reportedly said in a phone interview on Monday. “It’s time for the good guys with guns to begin to pass some really good policy.”
We’d really like to know what other “really good policies” Benjamin has in mind. While bump stock bans are, in my opinion, fine – they don’t conflict with our Second Amendment rights, plus no one really needs a bump stock – I’m not foolish enough to think they’re going to end bump-firing. They’re not. Remember, criminals don’t follow the law; they’ll either illegally obtain a bump stock, or, if they can’t get their hands on one, they’ll improvise. Apparently, rubber-bands and belt loops work just as well.