The council had planned to hold a public hearing on the proposal and take a second vote Tuesday, but the councilman who suggested the ordinance will not be able to attend that meeting. Councilman Al Allen, the ordinance's most vocal proponent, said he asked chairman Johnny Gardner to postpone the hearing and vote until March 10 when he could participate in the discussion. Allen said the chairman agreed to do that. Gardner could not be reached for comment Thursday. The council's agenda for next week's meeting will post Friday afternoon.
"I want to be there for it," Allen said of the vote. "It's not a rush. A couple weeks is not going to change it."
The proposed ordinance is similar to other policies that have been presented to cities and counties across the country following the gun regulations recommended by the now Democratic-controlled legislature in Virginia.
Horry County's proposed ordinance states that the county will oppose any state or federal law that county officials consider to be an infringement on the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Every member of Horry County Council is a Republican.
The term “sanctuary” is the same the language some cities used when they objected to federal immigration policies and declared themselves “sanctuary cities.”
Now gun rights advocates have adopted the term. Essentially, Horry County's proposed ordinance states that the county will not enforce gun laws that local officials believe are unconstitutional.
But county council members have sparred over whether to approve the sanctuary proposal as a resolution — a largely symbolic measure that would express support for the Second Amendment — or a formal ordinance, which requires three votes and establishes county policy.
During last week’s council meeting, councilman Johnny Vaught asked the council to discuss the proposal behind closed doors so the county could get a legal briefing about the possible impact of a Columbia lawsuit on the county’s ordinance. But other council members objected to the discussion taking place in executive session. The council ultimately voted in favor of the ordinance, though it requires two more votes to become law.
Vaught said his concern stems from a lawsuit that S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson filed last month against the City of Columbia. Wilson sued the city over gun laws that the AG considers unconstitutional. Vaught maintains a “Second Amendment sanctuary” policy at the county level is unnecessary, particularly in gun-friendly South Carolina.
“It’s a waste of our time to even be concerned about it unless something changes in our state,” he said.
Although it's unclear whether the county's ordinance has enough votes to pass two more readings, Allen said he's concerned about what would happen if the discussion took place without him.
"If I weren't there, they'd probably slaughter it," he said.