Gun Laws & Legislation

SC bill would exempt state militia from federal gun rules

While a handful of states have moved to nullify President Barack Obama’s recent executive orders on guns, a quartet of tea-party state senators in South Carolina introduced a bill Wednesday claiming to offer pro-gun citizens a different way around the federal rules: exempt the state’s unorganized militia from federal gun regulations.

The unorganized militia consists of all able-bodied people over the age of 17 who are U.S. citizens residing in South Carolina and legally allowed to purchase a firearm, according to current state law.

The governor may activate the militia in a case of “imminent danger of war, insurrection, rebellion, invasion, tumult, riot, resistance to law or process or breach of the peace” when the National Guard is insufficient to deal with the unrest.

The bill, sponsored by state Sens. Tom Corbin, Tom Davis, Kevin Bryant and Lee Bright, excludes members of the militia — essentially all state citizens who are at least 18 years old — from any federal gun rules passed after New Year’s Day.

“A militia member, at his own expense, shall have the right to possess and keep all arms that could be legally acquired or possessed by a South Carolina citizen as of December 31, 2012,” the bill reads. “This includes shouldered rifles and shotguns, handguns, clips, magazines, and all components.”

Because of the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause and long-established legal doctrine, enforceable federal laws always trump conflicting state laws. States are also not constitutionally permitted to prevent the federal government from passing and enforcing otherwise lawful legislation.

It is highly unlikely, then, that the South Carolina bill — which broadly precludes the federal government from exercising its basic constitutional authority to regulate firearm ownership, without limiting its scope to the enforcement of any specific federal law — would survive a legal challenge by the federal government.

The state bill, which has been referred to committee, applies to any gun law passed by Congress or rule implemented by the president.