Man Sues Columbia, S.C.: Temporary Weapons Ban 'Unconstitutional'

| by Kathryn Schroeder

A Lexington County man filed a lawsuit against the city of Columbia, South Carolina, on Thursday, claiming the city’s temporary ban on guns around the State House is unconstitutional.

In the lawsuit, Walid Hakim claims the weapons ban ordinance, that includes guns, causes him hardship and places him in potential danger as he won’t be able to defend himself near the State House should the need arise, reports The State.

“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.”

The temporary ban on weapons was passed during an emergency meeting on July 9 by the Columbia City Council. Under the ban, weapons may not be held within a 250-feet perimeter of the South Carolina State House grounds, reports Free-Times.

The meeting and vote took place the day before a scheduled ceremony that removed the Confederate flag from the State House flag pole. The ban was enacted because supporters and detractors of the flag removal have assembled recently and hate groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, have planned demonstrations on state grounds in the next few weeks. According to social media and other sources, some members of those groups said they plan to bring weapons to the demonstrations.

"During this period of extraordinary circumstances that have arisen, the City of Columbia believes it is in the best interest of public safety, free speech and freedom of peacable assembly to temporarily extend the existing ban of weapons as enacted by the General Assembly within 250 feet of the borders of the Capitol Complex," the ordinance reads.

The ordinance will be in effect for 30 days and anyone who violates the law will face a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.

"No specific intelligence or information, we are just exercising prudence and caution," Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said. "Our goal is to have peaceful, lawful assembly. This helps us facilitate and make sure everybody is safe."

Hakim wants a judge to grant an injunction that would prohibit the city from enforcing the law. 

The lawsuit states that a city cannot enact firearm regulation ordinances that override state law. The state of South Carolina prohibits weapons from being carried onto State House grounds, but it does not restrict them from the area near the State House, as the city’s temporary weapons ban does.

A spokeswoman for the city would not comment on the lawsuit as it is against policy while litigation is pending.

Sources: Free-Times, The State

Photo Source: Steve Snodgrass/Flickr, Wikipedia