A petition for an assault weapons ban referendum in the Town of Summerville is in the works.
Summerville resident Louis Smith is the man behind the petition to bring about the November referendum, which he brought up during a Summerville Town Council meeting Wednesday. Language on the definition of an assault weapon and what the ordinance would do is still being hashed out. Smith said he will have language nailed down by February.
To create an ordinance for a S.C. municipality, 15 percent of the registered voters need to have signed the petition, according to Dorchester County Election Commission Executive Director Joshua Dickard. That means less than 4,000 signatures are needed for a Summerville. Those signatures need to be turned into the election board by Aug. 15.
If the petition gets the required signatures, it will be the first time in recent memory that a citizen brought a referendum to the ballot in the county, Dickard said. In November 2012, Dorchester County School District Two's referendum to fund the building and improvement of schools passed with overwhelming support.
The referendum proposed by the referendum is a reaction to the Newtown, Conn., school shooting massacre and an increase in shooting violence in the Summerville community.
Smith, who ran for school board in 2012, said he understands the difficult logistics of just one town banning assault weapons but it's a necessary step to bypass the statewide or national politicians who may be unwilling to take on the National Rifle Association lobby.
"We narrowed the focus to Summerville and hopefully it will catch enough fire for other communities," Smith said. "We cannot expect the politicians to bring it because of the NRA."
Smith said despite his efforts to bring about a ban, he is a strong Second Amendment supporter.
"I'm very much involved in the Southern tradition and part of that tradition is guns, family and God … but we have to make a step soemwhere. Enough is enough with these assault rifles," Smith said. "We do not want to infringe upon the Second Amendment but we have to have some limited regulations."
He said there was "no reason" for more than a dozen shots to be able to be fired at Robynwyn resident John Hancock, who died in 2012. Smith said gun show loopholes and private sales loopholes must be closed to prevent legal guns from ending up in the hands of those who will abuse them.
"We need to limit a lot of access to guns, which will limit the guns on the streets," Smith said. "The less you have, the less the chances are you have a shooting."
Dorchester County Sheriff's Office PIO Maj. John Garrison said the majority of violent gun crime in the county is by those who were unable to legally purchase weapons.
"A good percentage of gun crimes come from people who couldn't have gone out and legally bought it," Garrison said, adding he did not have solid numbers to share yet. "We have very few firearm crimes by just Joe Blow citizens. Most of ours are involved in robberies and assaults, and the assaults are from a drug context ... It's already illegal for (the perpetrator with a criminal record) to possess one anyway."
Will you sign the petition to bring a municipal assault weapons ban in front of voters in November? Tell us in the comments!