Even before Joe Biden moved into the White House, conspiracy theorists and extremists were spouting off online about an impending mass disarmament campaign led by Democrats.
Those concerns have now reached GOP lawmakers in South Carolina, who have dug deep into the state’s rulebook and pulled out a centuries-old militia law that they’re hoping will buttress against any federal “gun-grabbing” efforts.
Senate Bill 614, introduced by State Sen. Tom Corbin, points to the state’s constitution that specifies all civilians between ages of 18 and 45 are part of the “unorganized militia,” meaning that they could be called up for duty if the National Guard were ever in a pinch.
The bill passed a Senate committee by 8-6 on Wednesday and is now headed to the full Senate for a vote.
Because of this “unorganized militia” reference in the state constitution, some GOP lawmakers think that every South Carolinian over the age of 18 is entitled by law to own a whole bunch of guns, including but not limited to “shouldered rifles and shotguns, clips, magazines, all components and all ammunition fitted for such weapons.” (Recognizing that might not be everyone’s cup of tea, the bill also creates a path for South Carolinians who want to “resign” or opt out of the unorganized militia.)
However, South Carolina’s “unorganized militia’ hasn’t been activated since the Revolutionary War, the Associated Press reported.
“That would prevent the federal government from ever confiscating any of your weapons,” Sen. Corbin told AP. “Because at the end of the day, the federal government cannot disarm a standing army.”
Corbin continued to voice those concerns at a hearing about the bill on Wednesday. “Do we want our militia members fighting with pitchforks and broomsticks?” Corbin said. “There’s a lot of good American citizens out there that I represent that are just afraid that at some point of time, the federal government, under any administration, may come and try to infringe on their Second Amendment rights.”
The bill was filed in late February, but after the two recent mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado left 18 dead in less than a week, tensions are once again rising around the issue of guns and gun control.
Language about “unorganized militia” is routinely invoked by militia groups when they’re trying to justify their existence. But all 50 states, including South Carolina, have laws on the books that prohibit private, authorized militias (like Oath Keepers or Three Percenters) from engaging in paramilitary activity. But, as many news outlets and experts pointed out around the time of the 2020 election and amid fears of militia intimidation at polls, those laws are rarely enforced.