MAY 04, 2021

SC Attorney General Wilson wins lawsuit against the City of Columbia over city gun laws

(COLUMBIA, S.C.) – May 4, 2021 - The Court of Common Pleas has agreed with South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson and ruled that three local gun ordinances passed by the City of Columbia violate state law. AG Wilson sued the city in April 2020, arguing that state law specifically says local governments cannot pass gun ordinances that are stricter than state law.

“We’ve said for three decades now that state law doesn’t allow cities, towns or counties to regulate firearms, so we appreciate the judge’s ruling,” Attorney General Wilson said. “These Columbia 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.”

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 3, 2019, 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.

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. State law means just that—the law of the entire State. Therefore, the remedy for the City is to convince the Legislature to change the law, not to disregard it. This ruling now provides clear guidance to all local governments on future matters of gun regulation,” Attorney General Wilson said.

You can read the Judge’s order here.

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