South Carolina prepares to debate secession. Again.

On December 20, 1860 South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union, ushering in the Civil War. Now, in response to threats of new gun control measures and possible confiscations, some lawmakers in the Palmetto State have introduced a proposal to repeat history. Not that anyone expects this to really happen, of course, but even the discussion of such a thought has a lot of people on edge. (Washington Times)

A trio of state House Republicans on Thursday quietly introduced a bill that would allow lawmakers to debate seceding from the U.S. “if the federal government confiscates legally purchased firearms in this State.”

Rep. Mike Pitts, the measure’s chief sponsor, acknowledged Friday in an interview with The Associated Press that the bill has no chance of passage this year but pledged to continue to raise the issue based on what he described as a defense of the Bill of Rights.

“Without a Bill of Rights, our nation is not what it is,” Pitts said. “I see a lot of stuff where people even talk about totally repealing the Second Amendment, which separates us from the entire rest of the world.”

Pitts is being careful not to blame his actions on the recent comments from John Paul Stevens about repealing the Second Amendment. Instead, he’s citing broader trends of elected officials in some states moving to undermine gun rights even as others work to fortify them. He’s also explaining how his bill wouldn’t actually begin the process of secession, but rather set up a trigger mechanism under which the state could choose to secede if certain elements of Second Amendment rights are curtailed or significantly infringed.

Perhaps Pitts is echoing the sentiments of those in California (from the opposite end of the ideological spectrum) who have sought to introduce a measure allowing their state to secede in response to conservative policies which have been enacted. These are two states on opposite ends of the country, citing opposite policy goals, but suggesting the same solution.

This is still purely a thought experiment of course, but what if it were possible? What would historians record as the triggering mechanisms for America’s Second Civil War? The first time around it was partly to do with slavery but also perceived economic oppression of the mostly agricultural south by the significantly more industrialized north. But we no longer have any significant “trade wars” between the various states aside from disagreements over right to work policies and such.

This is almost entirely a cultural divide. You can easily pick out the issues of the day and see how the various state legislatures have divided into two camps, lined up across from each other in a (thus far) strictly verbal war. Gun rights, abortion, illegal immigration and border security… the list goes on. So what happens if the differences are so intractable that no common ground seems possible and the losers of a series of increasingly closely divided elections simply refuse to continue being governed by the winners?

Sound crazy? Consider the fact that there was a massive march planned on Washington followed by massive protests before the current president was even sworn into office. Keep in mind how many times these same states have launched lawsuits attempting to block virtually everything he has done, no matter how frivolous the legal objections wind up looking when they reach the Supreme Court. And I’ll be the first to confess that I’ve already suggested Republicans and conservatives need to do the exact same thing the next time a Democrat takes the White House. If they don’t they’ve essentially surrendered the playground to the bullies and we might as well all pack it in.

While it’s a depressing topic to consider, it may not be quite as fictional as most of you are thinking. If the cultural divide grows wide enough, perhaps we’re witnessing the early stages of a process of cultural evolution which is producing two tribes who simply can’t find a way past their irreconcilable differences. Let’s hope this remains just a thought experiement. The last civil war was the bloodiest series of battles our nation has ever seen.

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