Crime & Courts

Gun rights: Man sues city of Columbia over its temporary weapon ban around State House

A Lexington County resident filed suit Thursday, alleging the city of Columbia’s emergency ban on guns around the State House is unconstitutional.

The city’s temporary gun ban ordinance causes him hardship and puts him in potential danger, said Walid Hakim in an affidavit attached to his lawsuit. The suit was filed in the Richland County Court of Common Pleas.

As a lawful concealed weapons permit holder, he won’t be able to protect himself when he is near the State House if danger arises, his affidavit said.

“Unless prohibited by a valid law, I always carry at least one firearm on my person or in my car,” Hakim said. “I had planned to be near the State House for various lawful activities. Based on the ‘emergency ordinance,’ I am forced to change my plans.”

Hakim’s lawsuit seeks to have a judge grant an injunction that would stop the city from enforcing the law.

State law says a city cannot enact ordinances that regulate firearms more than the state, Hakim’s lawsuit said. Although state law prohibits citizens from carrying weapons on State House grounds, it does not restrict them from being carried just off State House grounds. The suit was filed by Columbia attorney Mark Schnee.

The city’s emergency ordinance made illegal the carrying of firearms by citizens within 250 feet of the State House. It will expire around Aug. 9. It basically gives police the right within that zone to check out people they think might be carrying concealed weapons and arrest them if they are.

The city passed the ordinance on the evening of July 9, hours before a crowd of thousands gathered in front of the State House the next day for the permanent removal of the Confederate flag from a pole on the grounds.

Council passed the measure after hearing warnings from law enforcement that demonstrations relating to the Confederate flag at the State House might attract angry people and groups that might want to do harm.

City police have learned that armed and potentially violent people will show up at this Saturday’s Ku Klux Klan rally planned at the State House, according to the July 9 ordinance. The same day, another rally by an opposing group, the New Black Panthers, is planned.

In interviews after the ordinance’s passage, city officials said they knew that normally, state law would prevent such an ordinance. But in an emergency situation, where lives and property are at issue, the city has the right to pass such an ordinance, they said.

City officials were served with Hakim’s lawsuit late Thursday.

Asked about the suit, a spokeswoman said the city does not comment on pending litigation.

Hakim is familiar with the State House grounds.

He was a party to the successful 2011 lawsuit against against Gov. Nikki Haley and state police over their ouster of 14 Occupy Columbia protestors from the State House grounds. The state paid the protesters $192,000 in a settlement.

In 2012, Hakim’s name was among those removed from primary ballots statewide because of confusion over filing; he had filed to run as a Democrat for the House District 88 seat now held by Republican “Mac” Toole. He also ran unsuccessfully in 2004 against then-Columbia City Councilwoman Anne Sinclair for her District 3 council seat.

Related stories from The State in Columbia SC