State Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, set off a frenzy Tuesday when he filed a bill establishing requirements for journalists and media outlets as well as a "responsible journalism registry."
Pitts represents portions of Laurens and Greenwood counties.
Pitts said his efforts were pointed more at stirring debate around constitutional rights than actually forcing journalists to register.
Pitts said media continue to slant views on the Second Amendment right to bear arms and demonizes gun owners and people that support the Second Amendment.
"The issue for me is more on national journalism all the way down," Pitts said. "Every time I turn around, there's a spin on the Second Amendment."
The bill creates a responsible journalism registry maintained by the secretary of state's office, authorizes registry fees and establishes fines and criminal penalties for violation of the bill.
Requirements would also be established for journalists and media outlets during the hiring of journalists.
"Basically, it is the (concealed weapons permit) law with journalists and pens instead of guns," Pitts said.
South Carolina Press Association Executive Director Bill Rogers compared the bill to a proposal from state Rep. Mia McLeod, D-Columbia, making it more difficult for men to get medication and drugs to treat erectile dysfunction, such as Viagra and Cialis, to send a message about laws geared toward women, such as restrictions on abortion, which he said gets a lot of attention but goes nowhere.
Rogers said Pitts' bill is unconstitutional on its face.
"We will fight it tooth and nail if it gets any traction," he said.
Pitts admitted the constitutionality of the law is obvious, as it relates to the First Amendment, which includes the freedom of the press and freedom of speech.
"Both amendments are equal and pure, but there's a perception, and it's well presented by the media, that the Second Amendment is more of a privilege than a right," Pitts said. "If the First Amendment is so absolute, why isn't the Second Amendment."
Pitts said the bill is drawing attention to the fact there is a double standard on constitutional recognition when it comes to the Second Amendment and others.
"My real issue is simply to start to debate about all of your constitutional rights. And that they are all equally important, and they are all separate," Pitts said. "This was an easy parallel."
Pitts said he does not necessarily want the bill to pass but he would like to have a more accurate portrayal of facts in reporting.
Pitts said journalism has become sensationalized to some degree, especially broadcast journalism, driven by ratings and money. He added news articles are becoming more editorialized than fair reporting focused on facts.
"It is designed to slant opinion on the Second Amendment," Pitts said. "The media is promoting -- and they do it very readily and very quickly -- more gun control. In my opinion, gun control is there. It's not enforced. Federal and state law both have plenty in place to deal with firearms."
Pitts said he did not think drafting the legislation was a waste of time because it has done exactly what he intended.
"It has generated conversation -- and serious conversation -- about the issue," Pitts said. "It has already been successful in what I was trying to do and that's generate debate among the general populous."
Pitts said the bill was not targeted directly at anyone or any instance in the past.
Pitts set off another media frenzy during last year's extended legislative session when he filed dozens of amendments to stall legislation removing the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds, calling for a compromise. The state Senate stipulated a clean bill from the House in order for approval.
A compromise in 2000 removed the flag from the Statehouse, placing it on the grounds in front of the building, and created the Heritage Act, which protects war memorials located on public property.
The compromise also created the African-American monument located on the grounds.
Pitts previously said his amendments were meant to find a compromise for both sides just as the legislature had done in the past.
Amendments offered by Pitts ranged from placing the flag in a bronze casing next to its previous location to having yellow jasmine planted in its place. Others included flying the battle flag only on Confederate Memorial Day, displaying it upside down and removing all monuments from Statehouse grounds among others.
Pitts eventually conceded and many of the bills didn't make it to the floor. However, a media frenzy ensued throughout the 13-hour debate.
Pitts was also criticized by state media over weak ethics requirements for legislators regarding campaign spending, including an investigative report by Charleston's Post and Courier newspaper about Pitts' trips out West with what have been dubbed "sportsmen legislators."
Last year, Pitts came to the defense of the late state Sen. Billy O'Dell after he was named in a report by The Nerve website associated with the South Carolina Policy Council.
The report said O'Dell used campaign dollars for various membership dues and fees. Pitts said at the time O'Dell was well within ethics requirements to use the funds in that way.
A retired police officer, Pitts is a longtime member and secretary of the House ethics committee.
Contact Colin Riddle at 864-943-5650 or follow on Twitter @IJCOLINRIDDLE.