Forget bumper stickers. South Carolina drivers may soon have a new way to make a political statement while tooling around town in their cars.
As Corey Hutchins reported in the Columbia Free-Times, several lawmakers in the South Carolina State House recently introduced bills that would allow the DMV to issue over a dozen new specialty plates, including one with the Gadsden Flag slogan turned Tea Party rallying cry, “Don’t Tread On Me.” Among the other proposed plates are ones bearing the words “Coon Hunters” and “Second Amendment” for firearm fans, or, if fishing is more your thing, one with an image of a largemouth bass.
The bills have a long way to go before those plates could become a reality. They’re among over 200 measures South Carolina lawmakers pre-filed at the end of last year—a procedure that basically just publicizes what legislators would like to work on in the upcoming session—so they’d have to run the full legislative gambit when the legislature reconvenes January 11.
At least three other states have proposed or approved license plates referencing the Gadsden Flag — the iconic yellow banner with an image of a coiled snake, which was designed by South Carolina native Christopher Gadsden. Texas will begin distributing the plates this year, and legislators in Nevada and Virginia are considering bills proposing similar plates.
Though the Gadsden Flag was originally used by the Marine Corps during the American Revolution, it’s frequently flown at Tea Party rallies as a declaration against big government. That has some detractors arguing that the Gadsden plates are inherently political, and that the state shouldn’t endorse them.
South Carolina has faced opposition to other suggested plate designs in recent years. In 2008, a federal judge barred the state from issuing plates declaring “I Believe” with an image of a cross, ruling that it violated the separation of church and state.
While the “Coon Hunters” plate may raise some eyebrows for its apparent use of a racial slur, it’s apparently meant to celebrate raccoon hunting. Revenue from sales of the plate would go toward the South Carolina State Coon Hunters Association Youth Fund.
That group’s website states:
The SC State CHA was established in 1982 to promote the sport of coonhunting in our state…We work constantly with members of our General Assembly to insure that our hunting privileges are not infringed upon. [sic]
Revenue generated from some of the other plates would also go toward related government services or organizations. For instance, revenue from sales of the largemouth bass plate would be used to, “promote bass fishing throughout the State,” while proceeds from an “I Support Libraries” plate would be split between the South Carolina Association of School Librarians and the South Carolina Library Association.
None of the state reps sponsoring these proposals responded to TPM’s request for comment. Neither did the raccoon hunting organization.