Lawmakers double down on Second Amendment attacks

MULTIPLE BILLS ATTACK SOUTH CAROLINIANS’ RIGHT TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS

A growing number of bills filed by lawmakers would erode South Carolinians’ Second Amendment rights. In recent weeks, five bills were introduced that push for gun confiscation powers, banning certain firearms, and severely limiting their access – all of which would violate the rights of law abiding citizens. That doesn’t include the bills filed last year, which remain active and could still become law.

Below is a list of the anti-gun bills that could pass in 2020.

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“Red flag laws” – Seizure of weapons without due process (multiple bills)

Known as “red flag” legislation, a pair of bills (H.3275 & H.4991) would authorize police to seize a person’s firearms and ammunition at the discretion of local judge. If a solicitor, assistant solicitor, or two police officers file a complaint in probate court alleging that someone is a risk to himself/herself or others, the judge could issue a warrant to confiscate the firearms and search the owner’s property.

The bill relies on subjective, undefined terms such as alcohol abuse and “reckless display” of a firearm to determine if a seizure is justified. Worse, the decision is made without the accused present – depriving citizens of their right to be heard before losing a constitutional right.

Only after the weapons and ammunition are taken would the owner get a hearing. If at the hearing the judge believes the owner continues to present a risk, the state could hold the guns for up to a year, and the court would notify the Department of Mental Health.

The City of Columbia passed similar legislation as a local ordinance last year, but H.3275 & H.4991 would enact a statewide red flag law. (1/29/20: The South Carolina Attorney General has filed legal action against the city challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance.)

Status: House Judiciary Committee

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Permanent loss of gun rights for low-level crimes (multiple bills)

Three bills would prohibit someone from owning a firearm if he/she is convicted of a crime that carries a prison sentence of one year (S.1039) or more than one year (H.3053 & H.4087).

To demonstrate how extreme this proposal is, here are just a few examples of violations that would permanently strip citizens of their 2nd Amendment rights:

  • Contempt of the General Assembly (includes “willfully” giving “materially incomplete” testimony to lawmakers under oath, or failing to comply with a legislative subpoena)
  • Filing a “groundless complaint” with the Ethics Commission against public officials, including lawmakers
  • Slander and libel
  • Trespassing on state park property
  • Unlawful body piercing
  • Recording a movie in a theater on a cell phone (second offense)
  • Use of altered or counterfeit tickets or reuse of tickets
  • Defrauding a drug or alcohol screening test
  • Construction of a fence which impedes the free range of deer
  • Impersonating a lawyer
  • State lottery fraud

It should be noted that none these examples are violent offenses, and most are misdemeanors. This list is merely a sample of the hundreds of minor offenses that could ban a person from owning a gun should this legislation pass.

Owners who fail to turn over their guns, even if by mistake or failing to know the law, would face up to 10 years in prison under the strictest bill.

Status: House & Senate Judiciary Committee

*S.1039 erroneously uses two different prison sentence guidelines when describing whether someone would be barred from owning a gun. However, since “one year or more” is the standard used in the section that formally establishes the law, it should be recognized as the intended definition. 

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H.4682: Banning “assault weapons,” increasing penalties for firearm violations

The most sweeping anti-Second Amendment bill filed by lawmakers would ban outright the possession of “assault weapons,” defined so loosely that each of the following would be illegal:

  • Semi-automatic rifles with a detachable magazine holding at least 21 rounds
  • Semi-automatic shotguns with a folding stock or magazine holding more than 6 rounds
  • A firearm modified to operate as one of the guns described above
  • Any part or collection of parts from which one of the previously described guns could be assembled

To put this in perspective, a number of gun components from detachable magazines to certain receivers would be deemed illegal, putting owners at risk of up to 10 years in prison.

The bill also more than doubles penalties for the unlawful sale and carrying of a handgun. The current statutory penalty for unlawful sale is a fine of up to $2,000 and/or up to five years of imprisonment. Under this bill, the maximum fine would be $50,000, and/or up to 10 years of imprisonment for a first offense, and for subsequent offenses prison time would be anywhere from 10 years (with no possibility of probation or suspension) to 20 years.

Unlawful handgun carrying would now be a felony instead of a misdemeanor. The current statutory penalty – a fine capped at $1,000 and/or a maximum prison sentence of one year – would be increased to a maximum fine of $5,000 and a maximum of five years’ imprisonment for a first offense. Subsequent offenses would carry a fine of up to $10,000, and or prison sentence of five years (with no possibility of probation or suspension) to 10 years.

Finally, this legislation would make it unlawful to sell a firearm to someone on the federally maintained “terrorist watch list.” This watch list has long been scrutinized for its vague criteria, inconsistent administration, and convoluted removal process, and was declared unconstitutional in its current form last September by a federal judge.

Status: House Judiciary Committee

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H.4697: Raising the age to purchase an “assault rifle”

This bill would make it illegal to sell an “assault rifle” – defined as a “rapid-fire, magazine-fed semi-automatic rifle designed for military use” – to anyone under the age of 20. However, as neither “rapid fire” nor “magazine-fed” nor “designed for military use” are defined, so it is unclear exactly which rifles 18- and 19-year-olds would be blocked from purchasing.

Status: House Judiciary Committee

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H.4699: Requiring an identification chip in all South Carolina manufactured guns

H.4699 would require that every firearm manufactured in the state (including handguns, shotguns and rifles) be equipped with an electronic chip that identifies its owner. These are commonly known as “smart guns”.

There are a multitude of issues with this proposal – even beyond the obvious privacy and anti-Second Amendment implications. First, it isn’t clear if this law would apply only to guns manufactured going forward, or if every gun manufactured in South Carolina, past and present, must be retrofitted with this device. The financial burden on manufacturers (and thus consumers) would be substantial either way.

Second, “smart gun” technology is sorely untested, and vulnerable to hacking. If this technology were to malfunction in a self-defense situation, the consequences could be life-threatening.

And if the bill’s goal is to curb gun violence – presumably with stolen weapons – it fails to consider the unknown quantity of guns circulating in the state that were manufactured elsewhere, nor does it prevent citizens from outsourcing more of them to South Carolina.

Status: House Judiciary Committee

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H.3206: Banning “assault weapons”

Similar to H.4682, this bill would prohibit the ownership of “assault weapons,” defined in this bill as semiautomatic rifles with a detachable magazine of 21 or more bullets, semiautomatic shotguns with a folding stock or a magazine capacity of 6 rounds or more, and “high capacity magazines” – detachable magazines that can contain 15 bullets or more. The bill would also outlaw bump stocks, which were recently banned by the federal government.

Status: House Judiciary Committee

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S.421: CWP holders cannot carry a weapon into a business that serves alcohol

S.421 would make it illegal for a concealed weapons permit (CWP) holder to carry a firearm into a business that serves alcoholic beverages. Penalties for violating this law if passed could include up to three years of incarceration and loss of the CWP for five years. Current law – which was implemented in 2014  — allows CWP holders to carry concealed weapons into restaurants, provided the CWP holder does not consume alcoholic beverage while carrying. This bill would revert to the original law prohibiting carrying into establishments serving alcohol.

Status: Senate Judiciary Committee

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S.606: Universal background checks, no private gun sales

S.606 would prohibit the sale or transfer of guns without a firearm dealer’s license (with a few small exceptions), and would require background checks for every firearm sale. Penalties for violation include up to three years in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,000.

Status: Senate Judiciary Committee

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Instead of defending citizens’ rights, lawmakers have continued to push for policies that would erode freedom and make South Carolinians less safe. We will be tracking each of these bills closely, plus any new gun bills filed during the remainder of the 2020 session. This summary will be updated to reflect any such changes.

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