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The Debate About Making Horry County a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary

By V. Susan Hutchinson

Anyone attending the March 10 Horry County Council meeting saw hypocrisy, ignorance and twisted logic on display as the Council held a public hearing on a proposal by Councilman Al Allen (District 11) to designate Horry County a 2nd Amendment sanctuary (Ordinance 15-2020).

Allen began his rant by saying we have a violence problem, not a gun problem. (The use of the term rant is appropriate as his way of expressing himself was very animated and angry. It was so strong that if a firearm was nearby, we would have all felt in fear of our lives.)

The priority of this council seems to be the right to own guns, not violence prevention, which often includes the use of a firearm.

Upon entering the council room, it was clear the gun supporters were out in force to protect their very important right. Most were wearing stickers, handed out at the meeting, that read “Guns Save Lives”. Al Allen used the example of the man at the church in Texas who took down a shooter to avoid further deaths and then told the heroic story of the 83-year-old woman who was a victim of a home invasion and “thank God she had an AR-15 and knew how to use it”, most likely against a man who was either unarmed or had a handgun.

By all means use isolated incidents to justify your position that owning a gun will save a life, especially yours.

But why don’t we ask the victim of domestic violence whose abuser was able to purchase a weapon so he could shoot her to death instead of just beating her until she needed hospitalization?

Or the innocent victims of drive-by gang shootings?

Or the victim of someone with road rage who has a concealed weapon in their car?

Oh wait, we can’t because they’re dead.

The Key Word is “Responsible”

Over and over the words “responsible gun owner” were said both by Councilman Allen and those who voiced support of the ordinance. Their definition of responsibility is they lock up their guns so their kids can’t get to them. Or maybe it’s if you haven’t shot anyone and got arrested for it, I didn’t quite get what they consider “responsible”, but it appeared that we should all assume anyone who owns a gun is responsible until it’s proven that they are not.

Let’s put this in context of the first public speaker who emphasized the part of the 2nd Amendment that states “…to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” According to him any law made to limit the sale of any type of firearm to anyone, as well as the banning of any type of gun is a violation of the 2nd Amendment. He continued by saying the Founding Fathers meant not infringed on by the government. These guys, who are now all constitutional scholars, forget one important fact.

No bans or laws about limiting access to guns applies to everyone not just “responsible” gun owners. Let’s look at some assumed “responsible” gun owners in a country with no gun laws.

  • Have a history of violence without being arrested? You can buy a gun to be more efficient about it.
  • Want to join a gang to be cool? You can easily buy a gun so you too can shoot at someone.
  • Have a documented history of mental illness or suicidal tendencies? You can buy a gun to go on a rampage or finally kill yourself quickly and get it over with.
  • Feel the need to protect yourself against someone yelling at you for parking in a handicapped spot? Pull out your gun, the one you bought at the Dollar General and are now carrying everywhere, and just shoot him because you feel threatened.
  • In a heated argument with someone who disagrees with your politics? Just take out your gun and kill him so there is one less in the world to oppose your views.

In any of the above examples, by the logic of the pro 2nd Amendment people, the courts would sort it all out when it gets there. But they don’t want red flag laws that remove guns from the hands of criminals and those with a history of violence.

There is absolutely no concern for the victims of gun violence in any of the arguments.

Opposing Views

Several public speakers addressed the council with their concerns and arguments against the passage of Ordinance 15-2020. The first speaker was Rev. Elizabeth Bowens, President of the local branch of Moms Demand Action. She tearfully related how her son was a victim of gun violence and voiced her concerns on the passing of this ordinance and its potential consequences.

Another speaker was Northwest Action Dems former President Wendy Baruch, who spoke eloquently and passionately about the increase in gun violence in Horry County and emphasized that no one is working on taking guns away from anyone. She continued her argument saying there is no need for this ordinance, as “All of America is a 2nd Amendment sanctuary”.

Baruch said the sentiment of the ordinance is hollow and is based on “misguided partisanship”. “Guns are glorified over people,” she said. Baruch also expressed concern about the impact to the Myrtle Beach tourist industry and pointed out the irony of security at the door of the council chambers, where a search for guns was conducted before entering the room.

A very important point that Baruch made about passing the ordinance was the impact on terrorism. If Horry County does not have to abide by federal or state gun laws, what if terrorists move into the county knowing they can “legally” keep all types of firearms in preparation of an attack? Could you actually stop them?

Baruch reiterated that this ordinance is not only unnecessary, it is unsafe and just a “knee-jerk” reaction for something that is best left to the courts to decide, not cities. She ended by asking what about the sanctuary for our children?

Other speakers touched on what does this ordinance mean in relation to state laws? The example of a Myrtle Beach ordinance that was passed about not requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets was overturned by the state. Wouldn’t this also be overturned and if so, then why pass it?

One of the councilmen, who appeared to be asleep during most of Councilman Allen’s rant, woke up to ask what law would Horry County police follow, this ordinance or state law? The legal expert advised that all law enforcement takes an oath to uphold both the South Carolina and U.S. Constitutions. He then read directly from the South Carolina Constitution, which says that state law overrides any local ordinance.

This should clearly show this ordinance is unnecessary shouldn’t it?

Councilman Al Allen Out of Control

Baruch and others who spoke to the council used school shootings and protecting children in their arguments. As part of Councilman Allen’s rant, he said school shootings were not relevant to the discussion.

Allen’s reasoning was that the ordinance is intended to uphold the 2nd Amendment, as written, in Horry County even if other levels of government pass gun laws. He stated it should not be assumed the passage will lead to Horry County turning into the “wild west”. Ordinance supporters say open carry is part of the “don’t mess with my 2nd Amendment” attitude.

Here’s a reminder about the “wild west”. Although guns were openly carried, some cities prohibited guns within the city limits to avoid drunken shoot outs. No one in those days complained about infringement of their right to bear arms; they just accepted that the city was trying to protect citizens from potentially dangerous situations and complied with the law.

How far we have fallen from the days where gun owners understood that people’s right to life is more important than guns.

An opponent to the ordinance referenced the case of District of Columbia v. Heller in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a person’s right to bear arms for self-defense within the home, and also stated that the right to bear arms is not unlimited.

The Horry County Council will have you believe that the U.S. Supreme Court, whose sole job is to interpret the Constitution, got it wrong.

Al Allen is the one who is wrong. As part of his rant he spouted off about “fake news” and “fake media”. And yet never elaborated on what was fake when it comes to guns. Did he mean all the reported school shootings are a hoax? Did he mean we shouldn’t believe anything we see on the news when it comes to gun violence?

Following the “logic” of fake news, wouldn’t that mean any reporting of the government trying to take people’s guns is also fake?

Allen also waved papers around and claimed he did “research” and had data to show owning guns is safer than not owning guns. He used “Harvard studies” as his source several times, as if using the name of the prestigious university added validity to his arguments.

However, if you do an internet search for Harvard studies on gun violence, you get links to sites that say, according to a Harvard study, guns don’t make us safer.  Other sites clarify a Harvard study that supposedly proved countries with higher rates of gun ownership have lower crime rates. This appears to be the study Allen used to support his argument.

According to one source, “The paper, however, was not peer-reviewed, Harvard University does not consider it a study, and it misrepresented separate research to draw unsupported conclusions.”

If Councilman Allen understood anything about how research works and the importance of peer review, oh, never mind. It’s obvious he doesn’t and never will understand because he would rather cherry pick “data” that only supports his warped idea that guns are good for everyone.

Allen also used the country of Norway as an example of how a country with little regulation of guns has a low gun violence rate. But, he forgot to include a couple of key points about Norway. The U.S. has a per capita rate of 112.6 guns per 100 people compared to Norway at 31.3 per 100. The other one? That gun ownership requires a permit, which only applies to rifles and handguns, and is only issued if the purchaser shows proof of a hunting or sport shooting license as well as the completion of a firearms safety course.

None of this supports Councilman Allen’s argument so, of course, it was ignored.

Next Phase

Sadly, the ordinance was passed by a vote of 8 to 1 to move to the final phase. There is no doubt that it will be approved if only to satisfy Republican voters the council rely on to stay in their positions. Whether it means anything or not, in relation to state or federal law, is irrelevant. Gun owners, who were referred to by Al Allen as the “silent majority” must be appeased. One pro ordinance public speaker even said that if they don’t pass it, they don’t deserve to have the “R” after their names.

Ironically, the Council’s approval of the proposal followed its rejection of Community Benefit Resolution 26-19 requesting funds to be allocated to Joshua Empowerment Foundation for their “Let’s Stop the Violence/Anti-Bullying” event.

That clearly demonstrates the twisted priorities of these elected individuals.

The only way to keep this from leading to other ordinances that only cow-tow to gun owners and ignore victims’ rights is to vote them out of office! But we can only do that if we have Democratic challengers. It’s clear just by looking and listening to this council that they do not represent all the interests or diversity of this county. Note there are no women on this council.

Check the names of your councilmen and the dates their terms expire at the Horry County Council website and seriously think about running to unseat them.

In order to make a change, we need to have multiple council members removed and replaced with Democrats who will bring a progressive perspective and fight for everyone in Horry County.

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