JAN 29, 2020

SC Attorney General Wilson sues City of Columbia over unconstitutional city gun laws

(COLUMBIA, S.C.) – Jan. 29, 2020 - South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson filed a lawsuit today with the state Supreme Court asking it to strike down various ordinances adopted by the City of Columbia relating to guns.

“We have consistently advised for almost three decades, since 1991, that state law preempts local regulation of firearms. These ordinances clearly violate the state law that prohibits local governments from passing any gun laws or ordinances that regulate the transfer, ownership, or possession of firearms,” Attorney General Wilson said. Attorney General Wilson filed the suit asking the South Carolina Supreme Court to hear the case in its original jurisdiction, which means the state’s highest court would hear the case without it working its way through lower courts first.

In 2015, the City of Columbia was first advised by this office that local gun ordinances are preempted by state law. Since that time the City has continued to pass similar ordinances. One of Columbia’s ordinances would allow the city to confiscate firearms from those people who have Extreme Risk Protection Orders against them. Another ordinance bans the possession of firearms within 1000 feet of a public or private school. A third ordinance prohibits homemade firearms which have no serial number (known as ghost guns).

Attorney General Wilson sent a letter to Columbia Mayor Stephen Benjamin on December 3rd reminding him that it is the opinion of the Attorney General’s Office that a court would find the ordinances violate state law and the Second Amendment. Since the December 3rd letter, the Attorney General has anticipated that the City of Columbia would not comply with his request to repeal the ordinances and therefore for the past few weeks this office has been preparing for the inevitability of litigation.

The attorney general said his Office strongly supports Home Rule and the right of a city or county to protect its citizens, but the State Constitution and state law must be followed and the state legislature has decided that the regulation of firearms is beyond the reach of a town, city, or county.

“The General Assembly, through state law, has reserved for itself the ability to protect its citizens’ Second Amendment rights. Therefore, the remedy for the City is to convince the Legislature to change the law, not to disregard it. In this case, the Second Amendment is paramount and cannot be undercut. We ask the Court to grant original jurisdiction first to uphold the rule of law and second to provide clear guidance to all local governments on future matters of gun regulation,” Attorney General Wilson said.

You can read the complaint here.


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