We Have a Law!
Columbia, S.C. (June 26, 2008) – “We have a law,” AKTI lobbyist Palmer Freeman announced late in the day on Wednesday, June 25, 2008.
AKTI’s bill S968 cleared its final hurdle when both houses of the South Carolina legislature voted to overturn the veto of Governor Mark Sanford. A 2/3 majority vote of members present in both houses was required for the override.
Since the bill originated in the Senate, the 34 Senators present (of 46 total) started the process. They voted 33-1 to override the veto. Two hours later, 105 Representatives present (of 124 total) registered their collective voice with a 93-12 vote to overturn the veto.
The bill becomes law virtually immediately. Here are the pertinent amended sections: Section 16-23-405 of the 1976 Code is amended to read: … ‘weapon’ means firearm (rifle, shotgun, pistol, or similar device that propels a projectile through the energy of an explosive), a blackjack, a metal pipe or pole, or any other type of device, or object which may be used to inflict bodily injury or death. (Removes the phrase … “knives with blades longer than two inches”.) Section 16-23-460 of the 1976 Code is amended to read: … (C) The provisions of this section also do not apply to rifles, shotguns, dirks, slingshots, metal knuckles, knives, or razors unless they are used with the intent to commit a crime or in furtherance of a crime.” (AKTI added “knives” to this list to reinforce removing the knife reference in 16-23-405.) The governor’s veto, as he explained in his veto letter, was not prompted by the knife provision of the bill that now makes it legal to carry a knife with a blade longer than two inches in South Carolina. The governor expressed concern that a last-minute firearms carry amendment for lawmakers and state employees was a demonstration of “self-interest” on their part. He saw his veto as another way to send a message that he didn’t like the $6 million expenditure on statehouse security equipment that was already nearly completed.
In short, the governor used his veto to rub the collective noses of the legislature in their fiscal irresponsibility, in his view. But it did nothing to stop the $6 million that was already being spent.
In his letter to lawmakers prior to the veto vote, AKTI Communications Coordinator David Kowalski pointed out that, “Probably 99 percent of the hunting and fishing knives carried have blades in excess of two inches. Without the protection of S 968, South Carolina could lose millions of hunting, fishing and other recreational dollars annually to surrounding states.”
According to a 2006 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service study released late in 2007, South Carolina enjoyed more than $1.9 billion in spending from hunters and fishermen in 2006.
Kowalski also pointed out that S 968 would not contribute to any increased state spending for security.
The successful override effort was fueled by a major email campaign generated by knife-related forum announcements and direct emails from the AKTI communications office. As lobbyist Freeman said, “Quite a few of the legislators I spoke with and all of the staffers I spoke with mentioned the flood of emails, correspondence and calls they got on this veto vote. Thanks for the great grassroots effort.”
Communications coordinator Kowalski also reports that when he made his first call to a Senator’s office the morning of the vote, the secretary told him, “I know all about this issue; we’ve been getting emails from across the country.” Kowalski left phone messages for all 46 state Senators and had a personal conversation with Senator Ralph Anderson of Greenville.
On the House side, Kowalski left phone messages for all 124 members. He also had personal conversations with Representatives B. R. Skelton, David R. Hiott and Phillip D. Owens. Owens described himself as “both a hunter and a fisherman” and expressed the opinion that without the repeal of S 968, “they would pretty much take away all our hunting and fishing knives.”
AKTI would like to thank all those who took the time to send letters and emails during this process that involved several committee meetings, votes, and full floor votes in both houses, plus the veto-override vote. He also heaped praise on the efforts of lobbyist Palmer Freeman. “Without Palmer getting face-to- face with key decision-makers, this successful result would not have happened,” Kowalski said.
AKTI’s success in South Carolina continues a long line of legislative triumphs for bills they introduced that began in California in 2000, then Florida in 2003, Arkansas in 2007, and now South Carolina in 2008.
“Your AKTI membership dollars go directly to these successful efforts to make knife carry less perilous in this country,” Kowalski concluded. “We can’t do this without lobbyists and lobbyists cost money. By the same token, lawmakers who get emails, letters and phone calls on any issue know that voters are watching.”
Kowalski also added that, “Unfortunately, if anyone out there has been telling themselves and others that they are concerned about knife rights but never picked up the phone or wrote a letter on this issue, even though they were informed and prompted with model letters every step of the way, then they need to take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror.”