Law proposal would protect $5,000 worth of firearms in bankruptcy proceedings

A proposal that would extend bankruptcy protection to firearms cleared the House on Tuesday.

COLUMBIA — If you’re a gun owner and there’s a bankruptcy coming your way, you soon may be able to shield some of your big caliber assets.

The S.C. House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday that aims to expand bankruptcy protection to firearms. If it becomes law, weapon owners who declare bankruptcy could protect up to $5,000 worth of guns from debt collectors.

Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Myrtle Beach, said he introduced the bill after learning that other states extend bankruptcy protection to firearms. A 2013 report by the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress says at least 13 states provide some sort of protection from debtors.

“When I realized that South Carolina, a strong Second Amendment state (and) having a strong firearm-owning heritage, (lacked the law) it occurred to me that we needed to repair that oversight,” Clemmons said.

The original version of the bill protected up to three firearms and 1,000 rounds of ammunition. Republican Rep. Peter McCoy of Charleston pushed for upping the cap, arguing that debtors shouldn’t be restricted from gun owners with pricey firearms. Clemmons supports the modifications.

The bill has a handful of opponents, including Reps. Seth Whipper, D-North Charleston, and Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg.

“I just find it interesting that in everything, including bankruptcy, the state of South Carolina will make sure you can keep your guns,” said Cobb-Hunter. “That speaks volumes.”

Meanwhile, the Senate’s Judiciary Committee skipped over discussing the House’s Second Amendment Preservation Act on Tuesday. If enacted, the state would be prohibited from enforcing federal gun laws that took effect this year.

Sen. Lee Bright, R-Roebuck, expressed frustration over the bill’s lack of advancement but said he’s hopeful it will be debated in the next Judiciary Committee meeting.

Bills that don’t pass either chamber by next week are expected to die, unless one of the chamber’s leaders deems a proposal urgent.

Reach Cynthia Roldan at 843-577-7111.