COLUMBIA — The S.C. House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday along a party-line vote that prevents the state from enforcing federal gun laws that took effect this year.
The Second Amendment Preservation Act directs state officials to not enforce any federal law, rule or regulation that took effect after Jan. 1 that limits access to firearms and ammunition.
Democrats, some who are advocates of the Second Amendment, argued that the bill would keep the state from protecting itself from domestic terrorism and from closing the so-called “Charleston loophole,” which allowed alleged Emanuel AME Church shooter Dylann Roof to possess a gun.
The bill’s author, Laurens Republican Rep. Mike Pitts, rebuffed that argument. He said the measure aims to protect from new laws enacted after Jan. 1. It would not apply if Congress extends the gun-buying waiting period from 72 hours to 10 days or more because they would be amending existing law, he said.
“The ‘Charleston loophole’ was a sidetrack to use a motion to fight this particular bill,” Pitts said. “I don’t think (the bill) would’ve drawn any debate if it weren’t an election year.”
Charleston Democrat Leon Stavrinakis was among those who argued against the bill on the floor by stressing the need to protect the country from domestic terrorism. Now its opponents have to count on the bill gaining no traction in the Senate, which has been stuck in filibuster limbo since the start of the session, or for it to return with a more narrow scope.
Stavrinakis said the Legislature would fight “tooth and nail” as a whole if the federal government attempted to take away or force registration of the firearms from law-abiding citizens.
“I think that there’s some merit in sending a message to Washington that we’re going to protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens,” Stavrinakis said. “But I don’t want to be a part of a bill that cements the rights of criminals and deranged people and terrorists to wreak havoc. After what we’ve been through in Charleston and what we’ve seen happen around the world and in this country with domestic terrorists, it’s just something I could not support.”
More than 50 gun rights-expansive, protective or restrictive bills are pending in the General Assembly. But few have gained traction so far as the House concentrates on writing the state’s roughly $7.5 billion budget and the Senate is stuck in a filibuster covering the roads bill.
Reach Cynthia Roldan at 843-708-5891.