By Scott Pleasant
UPDATE: Horry County Council will conduct the second reading of the “Second-Amendment Sanctuary” ordinance on Tuesday, March 10th at 6:00 pm in the Council Chambers located in the Horry County Government & Justice Center, 1301 2nd Avenue in Conway. »View Calendar Event for more information.
At their next meeting on
Tuesday, February 18, the Horry County Council will conduct the second reading of a so-called “Second-Amendment Sanctuary” ordinance. The meeting will start at 6:00 pm in the Horry County Government and Justice Center at 1301 2nd Ave. in Conway. The proposed measure basically turns the law upside down by saying if the state of South Carolina or the federal government passes any laws that restrict gun ownership, Horry County, as a “Sanctuary” county, will oppose such laws. Yes, you read that right. The Horry County Council is contemplating an ordinance that gives a local ordinance priority over state and even federal laws—laws that haven’t even been written yet.
If this ordinance is adopted, our county would be obligated to “oppose” such laws. Does “oppose” mean “not comply with”? That’s unclear, and Council members provided no insight into that question at their most recent meeting on February 4, during which the sanctuary ordinance passed on first reading with no discussion.
As part of the second reading of the proposed measure on February 18, public input is invited. Our local leaders need to hear from us on this issue, so let’s please pack the house that night. Even if you don’t feel that you’re ready to speak at the meeting, please come and let the Council know that there are thousands of us in this county who do not support this foolish and unnecessary measure.
Believe me when I say nothing would please me more than to claim my allotted time to speak against this ordinance. However, I will be out of town that week. You do not need to sign up ahead of time if you wish to speak, but I would recommend that you sit close to the aisle and jump in quickly when the Council asks for public input because I predict there will be plenty of volunteers that night and the Council will likely set a time limit for open discussion. I think it’s important for the council to hear as many voices against this ordinance as voices for it, and let’s face it, there will be voices for it.
If you’re looking for “bullet points” (irony fully intended) to speak from, here are some that come to mind:
- Simply put, federal and state laws supersede local ordinances. You don’t need to have a law degree to know that. In fact, anyone who didn’t sleep through civics class should know that. If you need a case in point on this principle, just ask the Myrtle Beach council if their mandatory helmet ordinance for motorcycle riders was held up by the courts or not. (Spoiler alert: It was not.) Federal law supersedes state law, which in turn supersedes local law. That’s how it’s supposed to work.
- One potential counter-argument against that principle might be that some states’ legal codes are already at odds with federal statutes. For example, in decriminalizing marijuana, some states have defied federal laws that classify marijuana as an illegal schedule 1 drug. (Please note: South Carolina is vehemently NOT one of those states.) And yes, some cities have declared themselves sanctuary cities to resist deportations of “illegal” immigrants. (Please note: There are no such “sanctuary cities” in South Carolina.) The marijuana and immigration issues have yet to be worked out by the courts and state/federal legislatures. Still, in general, counties and cities cannot simply defy state and federal law. Again, that’s just not how it works.
- The difference between this Second-Amendment “sanctuary” idea and immigration sanctuary cities or marijuana decriminalization is that this proposed ordinance isn’t a response to any action by the state or federal government. There is no federal or state law against gun ownership, and there isn’t going to be. I simply cannot even begin to imagine a scenario in which either Washington or Columbia take away our right to own guns. It isn’t going to happen. This proposed ordinance is a protest against actions that haven’t even happened yet. By contrast, the immigration-sanctuary cities and marijuana-decriminalization states have taken those steps in response to actual federal laws and actions.
- And even if the federal or state government does enact additional legislation regulating gun ownership, regulating guns is not at all the same as taking away the right to own them. The good old Second Amendment itself specifies clearly that the right to bear arms is guaranteed to members of the “well-regulated militia.” Even if you accept the paper-thin argument that anyone who owns a gun is thereby a member of the “well-regulated militia,” there’s still that catch-phrase “well-regulated” to think about. That is, the Constitution says you can have your guns, but it also says the government reserves the right to regulate them.
- And it’s worth noting that, if challenged (and it very likely would be), the proposed ordinance would probably be struck down by the courts. Horry County might be forced to waste time and resources defending an ordinance that is destined to lose in court. Do we really want our County Council to go out of their way to invite that kind of trouble for themselves and unnecessary expense for all of us?
- Aside from the issue of whether we want our county to risk that kind of legal trouble, do we really want our county, which thrives on tourist dollars, to be in the news as a place that opposes any and all efforts to reduce gun violence? Remember that all of that tourism money comes to us primarily from families on vacation, many of whom come here from outside of our gun-loving region. How many of those families will choose a different location after learning that Horry County is going out of its way to be gun friendly rather than safety conscious? I can’t believe the Myrtle Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau would put that in large font on their brochures, can you? Imagine that: “Come to beautiful Horry County, and please bring your guns!”
I feel sure I am preaching to the choir here, so I’ll stop now, but I would ask you again to attend the meeting and consider lining up to speak against this poorly conceived ordinance. You may feel free to use anything I’ve written above in your talking points. Or freestyle it and say what’s on your mind. Whatever. But I think as supporters of the Horry County Democratic Party and of the Democratic Party platform, we should be there to speak to the all-male, all-Republican, almost-all-white members of the Horry County leadership.
Pack the house, people! You’ve got one chance to be heard on this!