All Aboard: South Carolina

The constitutional choo-choo train just keeps on rolling, with its next stop in beautiful South Carolina. If you desire gorgeous coastline, world-class golf, Old-South accents and your Second Amendment right to carry a firearm, this destination may be right up your alley. In February, the South Carolina Constitutional Carry Act/Second Amendment Preservation Act of 2023 (H 3954) was passed by the House within days of it being introduced by Rep. Bobby Cox (R-21).

“South Carolinians can still get the training they need, but they don’t need a permission slip to exercise that right,” Cox said during an interview.

The state is so determined to exercise its rights that there are currently two constitutional carry bills in the state Legislature: one being introduced in the House and the other in the Senate. This bill, H 3594, just seems to be moving much more quickly.

The bill is currently making its way through the Senate chamber, where some Chiefs of Police provided their testimony and concerns in early April. Greer Police Chief Matt Hamby said that “one concern among some police chiefs around the state is that there is no requirement for training,” but “we are absolutely in support of Second Amendment rights, and we want to make sure that just all of the issues are considered as lawmakers are making their decisions.”

If this bill passes the Senate and is signed by Gov. Henry McMaster (R), South Carolina will be welcomed onto the ever-growing list of constitutional carry states, coming in at 28.

‘Prohibited Places:’ Missouri

Democratic lawmakers are outraged, as a Republican-led bill that advanced in the House of Representatives would decrease the number of prohibited places in which you can carry concealed — to include public transportation and places of worship.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Adam Schnelting (R-104), was first introduced in March of 2021. After an amendment was added by Rep. Ben Baker (R-160), HB 485 advanced in the House and led to an outpouring of criticism and indignation from opposing parties. In a statement that pertains to private property — not what is addressed in the bill — Rep. Ashley Aune (D-014) said during a floor speech that “we haven’t even spent time today acknowledging the gun violence that happened about 10 miles from my own house, which is that a child was gunned down for ringing a doorbell.”

Current state law allows the carrying of firearms at “any church or other place of religious worship” only with “the consent of the minister or person or persons representing the religious organization that exercises control over the place of religious worship.” Some religious leaders spoke out against the amendment, which would remove the “permission slip” aspect.

Furthermore, Rep. Barbara Phifer (D-90) stated, “What kind of world are we creating with these kinds of laws? It’s absolute insanity, and it’s morally corrupt.” She’s maybe half-right: What kind of world do we live in where we can’t allow law-abiding citizens the right to defend themselves? Lest we forget, this amendment pertains to trained concealed carry permit holders only.

The bill has yet to pass a full House vote and be sent to the Missouri Senate chamber.

Taxation Without Logical Representation: California

Founding Father and fourth U.S. Chief Justice John Marshall once said, “The power to tax is the power to destroy.” Well, if you live in California, you are painfully aware of how much California likes its taxes. Now, if you plan to purchase a firearm, the firearm and ammunition retailers will face higher taxes because, according to this bill, “firearms and ammunition sold by licensed manufacturers, dealers and vendors of these products contribute to gun violence and broader harms.”

If you are curious as to why these legislators believe a firearms tax would prevent so-called “gun violence,” unfortunately I have no answer for you. Though no one can read minds, it is almost as if the end goal is to tax these retailers out of business.

Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills) introduced the Gun Violence Prevention, Healing and Recovery Act (AB 28), which would establish an excise tax on both firearms and ammunition sales. This bill would “impose an excise tax in the amount of 11 percent of the gross receipts from the retail sale in this state of a firearm, firearm precursor part and ammunition, as specified.” The revenue incurred from this tax would then go to various programs such as “gun violence research that helps stakeholders identify leading causes and evidence-based responses to gun violence.”

As of April 24, it has passed the Revenue and Taxation Committee and has been referred to the Committee on Appropriations.

Atop that, Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) introduced Assembly Bill 574. There is no fancy name for this bill as of yet. Current law states that a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) must keep a record of all firearms transactions made by the FFL and the customer. This bill would “additionally require the register or record to include the acknowledgment by the purchaser or transferee that they have, within the past 30 days, confirmed possession of every firearm that they own or possess.”

Yes, you read that correctly.

Securing Schools: Wisconsin, Maine and Tennessee

It is a well-known fact that gun-free zones do nothing other than create soft targets packed with unarmed individuals. The most vulnerable of these individuals are children in schools. While many lawmakers have armed security paid for by their constituents — and some even enjoy armed security 24/7 at the expense of taxpayers — many of those same lawmakers continue to leave schools defenseless in the name of gun control. After the horrific Nashville Covenant School tragedy, calls for specified gun bans commenced per usual. But some politicians in Wisconsin, Maine and Tennessee have begun to fight back.

Wisconsin state Reps. Scott Allen (R-97) and Cory Tomczyk (R-29) have proposed a bill that would make an exception to both state and federal law. Federal law bars firearms on school campuses, but the Gun-Free Zone Act creates an exception for those licensed to carry.

Wisconsin law strictly prohibits anyone from carrying on campus, and to do so could result in a felony charge. This proposal would create the exception to allow school boards the power to construct their own policies allowing staff to carry.

“It doesn’t mandate that they do this,” Rep. Allen said. “It simply gives them the option to do what the bill proposes, and that is to have them set up their own internal policies that might authorize school district employees to conceal carry a firearm on school property.”

If this bill should pass, Gov. Tony Evers (D) has vowed to reject it.

“I already vetoed Republicans’ bill to allow loaded guns on school grounds,” Evers stated, “because increasing firearms on school grounds won’t make our schools or our kids safer.”

Two of the four school-safety bills introduced in the Maine Legislature would both arm the teachers and allow permit holders to carry concealed on campus. LD 1557 would recognize the right of a person with a valid concealed carry permit to “exercise [his or her] Second Amendment rights on public school property or the property of an approved private school.” As of April 12, the bill has been referred to the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee.

In a separate bill, lawmakers have discussed training and arming teachers who choose to participate. LD 52’s primary sponsor, Rep. Steven Foster (R-32), said that “one of the issues is we have gun-free zones. We have crazed maniacs [who] are taking advantage of those situations [and] are entering those schools.”

Tennessee state Reps. Paul Bailey (R-15) and Ryan Williams (R-42) have introduced SB 1325, somewhat similar to the Wisconsin proposal. As of Feb. 6, it has passed the Senate chamber and has been making its rounds in the House. Due to protests in the capitol after the Nashville Covenant School attack, the bill has all but stopped in its tracks. House Republicans have been calling for a motion to put it back on the regularly scheduled calendar.

Bureaucratic Barrage: Congress v. ATF

When you think of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), bureaucratic overreach may come to mind. An unelected extension of the Executive Branch of government, the ATF generates and enforces rules and penalties relating to our Second Amendment rights. Most recently in 2022, the ATF wrote and implemented a new rule pertaining to the pistol brace, a tool used by many veterans, disabled individuals and other law-abiding citizens. The rule reclassifies most firearms fitted with pistol braces as short-barreled rifles (SBRs) and therefore subjects them to the National Firearms Act.

Fast forward to 2023, when the new Republican-majority House of Representatives was sworn in. In early April, more than 40 House Republicans introduced a Congressional Review Act resolution, or H.J.Res.44, hoping to appeal this rule and rein in the ATF’s excessive flip-flopping when it comes to its own rules. Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kansas) said that “Congress must use every tool at its disposal to stop the Biden ATF from enacting this unconstitutional gun grab and creating its newly proposed anti-Second Amendment gun registry.”

The Congressional Review Act (CRA) is a tool Congress can use to overturn rules issued by an unelected federal agency such as the ATF. The CRA is not quite like the legislative process, and, unfortunately, there have been only a few rules overturned among hundreds submitted. A simple majority in both chambers can pass a resolution, but a two-thirds majority would be needed for a presidential veto. As you can imagine, that will be the likely outcome, at least for now.

On April 19, 2023, the House Judiciary Committee passed H.J.Res.44 on a 23-15 vote. And on April 26, there was an oversight hearing, including testimony of ATF Director Steven Dettelbach. The next course of action would be for the resolution to go in front of a full House vote. You can make a difference by reaching out to your elected representatives and voicing your opposition.