July 2, 2018-
Stephen Benjamin’s transformation from an ordinary gun-owning Southern mayor to one who advocates limits on firearms began in the summer of 2015. That’s when the Ku Klux Klan and the New Black Panther Party came to his hometown, Columbia, South Carolina, to face off over the removal of a Confederate flag from the state Capitol. Fearing a gun-battle, Benjamin and the City Council enacted an emergency ordinance banning firearms from an area surrounding the Statehouse. The gambit worked. No one was shot. And an idea was born.
Today, Benjamin is helping to lead a movement among municipal governments to control the possession and use of firearms within their borders. Frustrated by state and federal lawmakers’ reluctance to address gun violence, local officials are taking on their lawmakers and governors, an uphill task given that all but seven states have laws prohibiting them from enacting measures that restrict the use of guns.