Columbia, S.C., Bans 'Use' Of Bump Stocks
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
All right. Let's shift our attention to Columbia, S.C., which has now become one of the first U.S. cities to ban the use of so-called bump stocks. That's the firearm attachment that enables a semi-automatic rifle to fire more quickly. The man who killed 58 people in Las Vegas in October used a gun that was equipped with a bump stock, so he was able to fire about 90 shots in 10 seconds. That's comparable to the speed of fully automatic rifles, which have long been illegal under federal law. Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin proposed this new ordinance, and he is on the line now.
Thanks so much for being with us, Mr. Mayor.
STEVE BENJAMIN: Rachel, thank you so much for having me.
MARTIN: This measure, as I understand it - this is not an outright ban, right? It is still legal to own and sell bump stocks in Columbia. You just can't use them.
BENJAMIN: It was important for us to make sure that we crafted an ordinance that was both constitutionally and statutorily sound. The Second Amendment is at least fairly clear and so are our state laws. So yes, we cannot ban them - ownership of them outright. We could prohibit their use in the city and their attachment to a legal firearm. And that's what we did in this ordinance. It is now under state law. All we can do is issue a misdemeanor. So someone who attaches one would be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine and 30 days in jail in Columbia, S.C.
MARTIN: So South Carolina law prohibits local governments from regulating firearms or firearm components. Is that what prevented you from pushing an all - a full ban?
BENJAMIN: Exactly. And we are pre-empted from regulating firearms or ammunition or even component parts and we - and our interpretation, which we believe is pretty strong, is that this is not a component part. This isn't a $30 attachment that someone can add to a gun that changes the nature of it. And we feel pretty good about the ordinance and the strength of it. And if in fact it is challenged legally, we're fully prepared to defend it.
MARTIN: Are you - is that likely to happen? I mean, what has been the response to this?
BENJAMIN: The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and it's been reassuring. You know, some of the emails and other types of messages - there were a few text messages, online communications on Twitter and other media - has been - it started, you know, I'm a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I'm a Republican, I'm military, what have you. And then they all say, but there's no reason that these things should be on our streets. You know, the reality is this - after every single heinous crime, whether it be Sandy Hook or Vegas or Texas or, you know, Orlando, people always say that a good guy with a gun could've done something about this. Well, the reality is that on our city council there are whole lots of good guys who have guns and just thought that other than the argument being so constantly polarized that people who are strong supporters of the Second Amendment but also strong supporters of downright good common sense should step up and do something. And we thought Columbia, S.C., might be a great place to start.
MARTIN: Steve Benjamin - he is the mayor of Columbia, S.C. They've become one of the first U.S. cities to ban the use of bump stocks. Thanks so much for your time this morning.
BENJAMIN: Rachel, thank you.
[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: During this report, we say that automatic rifles have long been illegal under federal law. In fact, there are legal ways to obtain such weapons, although such sales are severely restricted.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.