Columbia leaders took the first step Tuesday toward becoming one of the first cities – if not the first – in the country to ban the use of controversial bump stocks, trigger cranks and similar devices that attach to guns.
“I’m thankful the city of Columbia is taking a leading role in addressing this issue,” Mayor Steve Benjamin said. “I hope we will find other cities, other states and members of Congress of the United States addressing this serious loophole.”
Bump stocks and trigger cranks are firearm attachments that can turn legal guns into weapons that simulate illegal, fully automatic gunfire.
In the Las Vegas hotel room from where gunman Stephen Paddock fired on a concert crowd in October, a dozen guns modified with bump stocks reportedly were found among an arsenal of dozens of weapons.
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Columbia’s proposed ordinance would make it illegal to attach bump stocks or trigger cranks to any guns within the city, except by military or law enforcement personnel. It would still be legal to own those devices, so long as they are stored in separate containers from firearms.
The four City Council members present at Tuesday night’s meeting – Benjamin, Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine, Councilman Sam Davis and Councilman Howard Duvall – voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance. It will require one final council vote to become law.
There was no discussion among council members before the vote, and no one from the public stood up to speak about the proposed ordinance.
It is not clear whether any other American cities have a similar law regarding bump stocks or trigger cranks. But Benjamin told The State last month he believes Columbia might become the first.
Critics have questioned whether it is legal for the city to institute such a ban, as South Carolina law prohibits local governments from regulating firearms or firearm components.
But city leaders say their ordinance is legally sound, arguing that bump stocks and similar devices are not firearm components, but rather attachments. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also says that bump stocks are not considered a firearm part.
Leaders in Tuscon, Ariz., recently considered a local ban similar to Columbia’s proposal, but it fell through because of an Arizona state law that forbids cities from writing their own gun laws. Instead, Tuscon city leaders passed a non-binding resolution encouraging state and federal lawmakers to do something.
When he announced Columbia leaders’ intentions last month, Benjamin emphasized that the proposed ordinance is not a gun ban and that he and other members of City Council are gun owners and Second Amendment supporters.