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