Las Vegas Shooting Gun Laws (copy) (copy)

A device called a "bump stock" is attached to a semi-automatic rifle at the Gun Vault store and shooting range on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, in South Jordan, Utah. File/Rick Bowmer/AP

An ordinance under consideration by Charleston's Public Safety Committee this week could ban bump stocks and other devices used to make firearms shoot faster.

If enacted, the ban would follow a similar move by Columbia in December 2017, which became the first city in the country to outlaw bump stocks and other similar firearm accessories.

While supporters say banning such items is good for public safety, opponents say the devices are constitutionally protected and banning them does nothing to make communities safer. 

Merrill Chapman, president of the South Carolina chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said she and her organization are excited that the ban is being considered and hope that the committee will advance the proposal to the City Council.

"I think this is a great step in the right direction," Chapman said.

State Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, said he supports the ban but cities should also throw their support behind efforts to enact a bump stock ban at the state level.

Instead of having a patchwork of local ordinances, a statewide ban could help make communities across the Palmetto State safer.

Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds said the ordinance is a good start but that his main objective is to have a conversation on guns and their impact in the community. 

The city has seen eight homicides so far in 2018, Reynolds said. By this point last year, there was just one homicide.

"I think it's the beginning of the conversation," he said. "Ultimately, if we save one life then we've done our jobs."

Charleston's proposed ordinance references the October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, in which a bump stock was used to devastating effect. It also references the June 2015 shooting at Emanuel AME Church.

But some firearms owners groups and state officials disagree. 

"The city of Charleston is looking for a solution to a problem that doesn't exist," said Gerald Stoudemire, president of Gun Owners of South Carolina. By banning bump stocks and similar accessories, the city could end up creating a demand for them, he said.

"If you can't get something, you want it," Stoudemire said. "It's human nature."

Instead of banning these items, public officials should leave them alone because bump stocks "are a poorly engineered toy" and are a passing fad, he said.

Some argue the city may not have the authority to enact a ban. Columbia's ban is currently being challenged in court. 

In a published opinion, Attorney General Alan Wilson stated that state law prevents local governments from regulating the "transfer, ownership, possession, carrying, or transportation of firearms, ammunition, components of firearms, or any combination of the things."

Whether this law extends to accessories like bump stocks seems to depend on one's interpretation of the law. For Stoudemire, a bump stock or any accessory like a scope, is protected. 

In the ordinance, Charleston officials argue that these devices are not protected because they do not constitute a gun.

For Tecklenburg, the time is right to consider the ban. The mayor cited rising crime statistics and spoke about overall lax firearm laws that have contributed to high rates of violent crime in the Palmetto State. 

"You can shoplift a candy bar and every time you get prosecuted, the consequences are greater and greater," Tecklenburg said. "If you carry an illegal weapon, the consequences remain the same. ... It's such a casual thing to be carrying a gun around with basically no consequence."

The mayor hopes passing this ordinance will help make the city safer and further a desperately needed public conversation about responsible gun ownership and community safety.

In the meantime, it's up to city officials to lead because state officials have failed to act, Tecklenburg said.

"I feel that their lack of action calls us to the plate," he said.  

Charleston's Public Safety Committee will discuss the ordinance on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. inside the City Council Chambers at City Hall, 80 Broad St.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Get the best of The Post and Courier, handpicked and delivered to your inbox every morning.

Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.

We're improving out commenting experience.

We’ve temporarily removed comments from articles while we work on a new and better commenting experience. In the meantime, subscribers are encouraged to join the conversation at our Post and Courier Subscribers group on Facebook.