Mayor Benjamin on Columbia’s new ‘bump stock’ ordinance

As you may or may not know by now, yesterday Columbia became one of the first, if not the first, city in the country to ban the use of “bump stocks.”

Yes, city council went ahead with it, blithely risking the wrath of Catherine Templeton, who had threatened… well, it’s a little unclear, but she seems to have threatened to run for mayor, or something. Anyway, her protest was wildly irrelevant and disregarded, but I’m sure her mission was accomplished — somewhere, a Bannonite thought better of her for her tough, though vague, talk. Those folks tend to be about attitude more than results.

Image from website of Slide Fire, which sells bump stocks.

Image from website of Slide Fire, which sells bump stocks.

Back to the real world: In light of council’s action yesterday, Mayor Steve Benjamin was interviewed on NPR this morning. Hear the interview here.

And his interview belongs in a different rhetorical universe from Templeton, Bannon and Roy Moore. Which means to say, his words were measured, helpful, and respectful of all views. In a world in which too many speak to the extremes on both sides of the gun debate, this was refreshing.

Note that I said the city has banned the use of bump stocks (and trigger cranks), not the devices themselves. You can still own and sell them in Columbia. You just can’t attach them to a firearms and/or use them, unless you leave town. Violation of the ordinance would be a misdemeanor.

“It was important for us to make sure that we crafted an ordinance that was both constitutionally and statutorily sound,” said the mayor, who proposed the ordinance earlier this month. He was careful to fully respect what he called the clear intent of the 2nd Amendment, as well as state statutes on the subject.Benjamin

“We are preempted from regulating firearms or ammunition or even component parts,” he said. “This is not a component part; it is a $30 attachment that someone can add to a gun that changes the nature of it.”

He said the council “feel pretty good” that the new rule in on firm legal ground and he feels “fully prepared to defend it.”

He said the response he has received to the action has been overwhelming positive.

“On our city council there are a whole lots of good guys who have guns,” he said, and they felt this was no time for more of the usual polarization. His thought was that “people who are strong supporters of the 2nd Amendment, but also strong supporters of downright good common sense, should step up and do something.

“And we thought that Columbia, South Carolina, might be a great place to start.”

18 thoughts on “Mayor Benjamin on Columbia’s new ‘bump stock’ ordinance

  1. Bryan Caskey

    Fluff and Symbolism. (Incidentally, this would be a good band name.)

    “You can still own and sell them in Columbia. You just can’t attach them to a firearms and/or use them, unless you leave town.”

    I’m not aware of any shooting range within the city limits so this has no practical effect. Might as well prohibit use of light sabers in city limits.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I don’t think I’d buy tickets to see a band named “Fluff and Symbolism,” even if they opened for Elvis Costello at Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis in 1979. Even though I’d like to be 26 again…

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      It’s easy to have contempt for this action, but it’s hardly fair when you realize how little a municipality can do. After all, what possible practical effect can it have? If someone uses a bump stock in a mass murder in Columbia, what will happen as a result of this ordinance? He’ll get a ticket?

      But I think you should consider the following:

      — There was widespread, bipartisan sentiment for banning bump stocks right after Las Vegas. It was remarkable, because all calls for limiting anything having to do with firearms on the federal level generally lead to nothing but a liberalizing of gun laws. Still, nothing happened this time, either.
      — Between the 2nd Amendment and a Legislature determined to keep local governments from making decisions for themselves, a municipal government’s power to act is extremely limited.
      — Within those extreme limits, Benjamin and the council decided to do what they could, in contrast to the paralysis in Washington.
      — They didn’t make an entirely empty gesture. They took an action, to the limits of their power, without trying to overstep that power.
      — They did so in an orderly, mature, deliberate manner, exhibiting reason and restraint that too many of us no longer expect from government. They did it without finger-pointing, name-calling, or bloviating about it. In other words, they set an example for how other levels of government should function. By doing so, they made a case for a good cause — subsidiarity. They suggest by their mature, restrained actions that maybe MORE decisions should be made on the local level. (Note this headline: “Columbia, South Carolina, Bans Bump Stocks, Since Congress Won’t.”)

      In this degraded, hostile, dysfunctional political atmosphere in which nothing good happens but a lot of ill-will is created along the way, I think the way this was handled was admirable.

      Bud and Doug will scoff — form instead of function! Mere words! But this is the stuff of civilization, without which we descend to the level of deranged beasts. And I think that makes it worth giving the mayor an attaboy…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        A shorter version of what I just said:

        The council has said, “We can’t do much, but we’re going to do what we can, and we’re going to act like grownups doing it.” These days, that’s progress…

        1. Bryan Caskey

          They aren’t acting like grownups. They are acting like a teenager doing a mock-protest.

          The council needs to stay in its lane and do City Business. It’s not glamorous, but it’s the grownup thing to do. The city of Columbia has plenty of issues that need to be addressed. Bump stocks are not one of them.

      2. Bryan Caskey

        I think doing futile things that are going to cost taxpayer money to no end, and possibly be overturned by a court, (regardless of the tone) is colossally stupid.

        Note, I don’t have an objection to a state law prohibiting bump stocks. I do, however, object to laws that are simply exercises in vanity to politicians looking to get publicity.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Bryan, don’t you think it’s a tad too easy for you to sneer at the fecklessness of those who would LIKE to see truly effective gun control, but know they never will?

          You know that the 2nd Amendment protects your gun rights absolutely. You hold the trump card that those who disagree with you can never hope to out-maneuver.

          So they are reduced to pitifully ineffective gestures. They should at least get a little sympathy from the Olympian heights of certainty that the 2nd Amendment gives gun-rights advocates: The poor creatures! Let them weary themselves trying to batter down our gates! Little enough good it will do them…

          1. Bryan Caskey

            First, I’m not “sneering”. I’m simply saying this is an ineffective, unnecessary, PR gesture by the City Council that will end up costing the City money and could probably end up with a court overturning the ordinance.

            If Benjamin and Co. were interested in doing something real, they would call on the legislature to pass a state law. They would get other city councils to call on the legislature to pass a state law. They would lobby the right people to enact a state-wide ban. Why haven’t they done this? Well, I guess that’s harder than passing a little city ordinance and then basking in the PR of it.

            I’m not big on celebrating useless gestures.

            I guess I could take the attitude that you suggest, but that’s not really productive. I know lots of gun-rights folks who don’t even engage in the debate for precisely that reason – they take the “Go pound sand” attitude towards those who disagree.

            Me, I like to engage, explain, and (try to) educate folks who are anti-gun. Mostly, if I can convince someone to come out to the range with me, they open their mind because chances are they’ve never actually held a gun of any kind.

            1. bud

              Bryan circa 1862:

              I see no point in this symbolic “emancipation proclamation”. It does not free any slave and is likely to be struck down by the courts. Would it not be better to work through the legislative process and/or the courts to render a truly effective prohibition of slavery? Yet Lincoln persists in this meaningless gesture that will only make a mockery of the presidency. I for one see no point in it.

            2. bud

              if I can convince someone to come out to the range with me, they open their mind because chances are they’ve never actually held a gun of any kind.

              That’s akin to asking a vegetarian to dinner at Longhorns. I used to fire guns with my dad as a young man. I didn’t like it.

              Bryan I’ll give you credit for getting me to modify my views somewhat on the no fly list ban on buying guns. I do now think that due process should be a part of including a person on the do not fly list. Mistakes happen and the government has an affirmative duty to show why an individual should not be allowed on a plane. Once a person goes through that process and is deemed a risk to the flying public then that information should be included on background checks to buy guns.

          2. Richard

            Get rid of BumpStocks, it’s easier to get the exact same results just by looping your thumb through a belt loop anyway. Ban thumbs and belt loops…

  2. bud

    Bryan is right that this has no practical impact. But it’s a start. As they say a 1000 mile journey begins with a single step. The Emancipation Proclamation had no concrete impact either. But that too was a start. If this picks up momentum nationwide maybe, just maybe we can rid the country of these indefensible things.

  3. Richard

    So if I don’t have a bump stock, can I now shoot my AR-15 within city limits? All this law does is pad his accomplishments for when he goes after Clyburn’s seat when he retires.

    In other news, word has it Benjamin is now trying to make it illegal to drive 150 mph within residential neighborhoods in Earlwood.

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