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DCM, Military Gun Ban Repealed In South Carolina
by Joseph P. Tartaro
Executive Editor Gun Week

Individual activism on behalf of the right to keep and bear arms can still pay big dividends as the June 9 repeal of the South Carolina ban on semi-automatic military style rifles reveals.

The state legislature voted to change the language so as to safeguard thousands of gunowners who could have been prosecuted under the old statutory language which was an outright ban on all rifles, shotguns and handguns which had originally been designed and manufactured under a military contract.

The new language amending the statute is more precise to the legislature’s intent. It reads:

"Military firearm" means any military weapon, firearm, or destructive device, other than a machinegun, that is manufactured for military use by a firm licensed by the federal government pursuant to a contract with the federal government that does not include a pistol, rifle, or shotgun which fires only one shot for each pull of the trigger.

The careful wording of the "one shot for each pull of the trigger" eliminated the usual legislative debate over "assault weapons" and "semi-automatic" actions.

Sponsor of the repeal measure was Rep. Dwight Loftis (R-19th Dist.) and Senator Larry martin (R 2nd).

The story of how he became the legislative champion for this bill is a text book case in grassroots politics.

In 1994, Weldon Clark, a long time gun rights activist in Maryland, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and nationally as a member of the NRA board of directors, was asked by a friend, Rick Daniel, to help the election campaign of Loftis, then a candidate for the South Carolina House of Representatives.

With the help of other gunowners, including Frank Allen, Loftis was elected.

Another flashback is needed in the story: When Clark first relocated to his native South he was astonished to learn that it was illegal to transport, store, keep, posses, sell, rent or give away a "military firearm;" that is any firearm manufactured for military use by a firm licensed by the federal government pursuant to a contract with the federal government. Yet, when going to firearms events he saw many such firearms. Obviously the law was not being enforced.

Clark copied and read all sections of the South Carolina laws on firearms, and decided on a subtle approach. He decided to modify the definition in the law and wrote the new language with the help of Rob Butler.

Then Clark went to state Sen. Larry A. Martin (R-2nd Dist.) and Rep. Loftis (R19th) and asked them to introduce his proposal. They did as S-505 and H-3632. To avoid massive publicity which could be harmful, he did not notify or seek the help of any pro-gun group, including NRA which had opposed the governor for election.

Clark supported his proposal with a convincing justification argument and helped answer all questions about the amended law.

Now the bill has been signed by Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges and this issue is resolved. But the repeal of an onerous gun law in the Palmetto state, even if it was not being enforced, is a step forward for gun owners, and an example of what can be accomplished by dedicated activists anywhere.

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For more articles by or information about Weldon Clark, click here.