SC AG sues Columbia over alleged unconstitutional gun laws

January 29, 2020 GMT

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson is suing the City of Columbia over gun laws it has adopted.

Wilson filed the lawsuit Wednesday in the South Carolina Supreme Court, asking it to strike down the gun-related ordinances that he has called illegal in the past.

“We have consistently advised for almost three decades, since 1991, that state law preempts local regulation of firearms,” Wilson said in a news release. “These ordinances clearly violate the state law that prohibits local governments from passing any gun laws or ordinances that regulate the transfer, ownership, or possession of firearms.”


Wilson filed the suit with the state’s high court so it would hear the case without it working its way through lower courts first, according to the attorney general’s office.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin told The State he has not reviewed the lawsuit, and would comment when he has read the court document.

In December, Wilson said new city laws that prohibit the possession of guns within 1,000 feet of Columbia schools and that allow the confiscation of guns from people who are deemed an “extreme risk” are a violation of state law and of the Second Amendment. He sent a letter to Benjamin on Dec. 3, saying a court would find the ordinances violate state law and the Second Amendment, according to the release.

The attorney general’s office said it did not expect Columbia to comply with Wilson’s request to repeal the ordinances and has been preparing the lawsuit for the past three weeks.

The attorney general said “the regulation of firearms is beyond the reach of a town, city, or county.”

“The General Assembly, through state law, has reserved for itself the ability to protect its citizens’ Second Amendment rights. Therefore, the remedy for the City is to convince the Legislature to change the law, not to disregard it,” Wilson said in the release. “In this case, the Second Amendment is paramount and cannot be undercut.”

In December, Benjamin responded to Wilson’s letter, saying he “would like to respectfully disagree with the Attorney General Office’s opinion.”

“All of these ordinances are valid and necessary use of the City’s authority to protect its people,” Benjamin said.

A previous gun law in Columbia has been struck down. In 2015, the city passed an ordinance that prohibited the carrying of firearms within 250 feet of the State House grounds, a temporary measure in response to the removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds. A court later ruled the ordinance encroached on state law.