Apparently, the state's tax-free holiday for gun buyers was a big hit.

Ever since the first one back in November, Arlyn Pendergast's customers at ATP Gun Shop and Range have been asking him when the next one is coming around.

Well, for now the answer is "never."

On Monday, the state Supreme Court killed the gun sales tax holiday, not because it doesn't cotton to firearms, but because the measure was part of a bill with three completely different purposes. That's called bob-tailing and it's not really, exactly legal in South Carolina.

That's the same as the Legislature passing a bill to declare vanilla the official state ice cream and tacking on a three-week hunting season on Democrats in Dorchester County. See, that would be wrong; it would violate the endangered species act.

So the Legislature has shot itself in the foot once again. If there is one group you don't want to hack off, it's gun owners.

No, not because they're going to shoot you. It's because they are members of the NRA, the most powerful political lobby in the country.

O, Christmas Tree

It started out innocently enough, by Columbia standards.

Somebody had an idea to offer tax breaks to folks who buy energy-efficient appliances. Somebody then added the gun tax holiday. Then, at the last minute, someone amended the bill again, allowing state petroleum dealers to buy gasoline without ethanol. They wanted to add their own ethanol and save money.

That's how the game works. But there was one too many ornaments on that Christmas tree for the Supreme Court. The justices were unanimous, saying the legislation didn't stick to its title. Technically, bills are supposed to address one issue so pesky legislators can't sneak new laws onto the books.

Road Runner 1, Coyote 0

It's not hard to understand why the Legislature did this. It was politically popular, and only cost the state about $15,000 in lost revenue. A lot of bang for the buck, in other words.

It was a mildly controversial issue. There were critics who asked why guns instead of cars, stereo equipment, boats. It also seemed odd to be giving up tax revenue at a time the state isn't exactly swimming in cash. Gov. Mark Sanford even vetoed it because it was a bob-tailed bill, but the Legislature overrode him. It can't override the courts, though.

For now, gun buyers are out of luck. It's highly unlikely the General Assembly could pass a new bill this late in the game. Pendergast says it's too bad because the sales tax holiday brought a lot of people in, and saved them some real money.

"It was just a great help, especially the way things are now," he says. "Unlike a car, there's no cap on sales tax for guns. That's seven percent on guns that cost between $500 and $1,000 on average."

So this is a pretty pickle for lawmakers. They've lost face, hacked off some heavily armed constituents and now have to listen to Sanford's "I told you so."