Gun Laws & Legislation

SC bill would exempt state militia from federal gun rules

Paul Conner Executive Editor
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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.

Obama signed 23 executive actions Wednesday, strengthening federal background checks and resuming funding for federal research on gun violence. He also pushed Congress to ban so-called “assault weapons” and high-capacity ammunition clips.

“The unorganized militia may not fall under any law or regulation or jurisdiction of any person or entity outside of South Carolina,” the legislation reads.

Corbin explained that the one-page bill is meant to protect the state citizens’ Second Amendment rights.

“The premise is that that is our state standing army, and the federal government has no jurisdiction to tell our militia what sort of weapons we can possess,” he told The Daily Caller.

Current state law bans automatic machine guns, sawed-off shotguns and sawed-off rifles.

“Obviously you can’t have automatic weapons,” Corbin said. “I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘Hey, as citizens we need to be able to possess the same firepower that the military has.’ You’ll never get that passed in a bill.”

“And do we really want people having flame-throwers and shoulder-launched grenades and things like that?” he continued. “It simply protects what we have now from confiscation or regulation by law or executive order by any body or entity outside the state of South Carolina.”

Corbin said that it takes a skilled shooter “less than 10 seconds” to change an AR-15 clip, and that limiting the number of rounds in a clip would be an ineffective solution.

“What we want is to stop bad people from doing bad things, and gun control just doesn’t do that,” he said. “It just doesn’t work, and it infringes on our citizens’ rights, and it’s not the right way to go about solving the horrible problem.”

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