COLUMBIA — A state Senate panel Wednesday unanimously advanced a bill that would allow South Carolinians to keep legally acquired firearms and ammunition regardless of any gun-control steps Congress might take after a series of high-profile shootings.

“It’s not the gun’s fault, it’s never the gun’s fault,” bill sponsor Sen. Tom Corbin, R-Travelers Rest, said of the shootings. “It’s the person. But everybody wants to come down on the gun, and I’ve never thought that was right.”

Corbin said he wouldn’t have proposed the bill if not for the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Orangeburg Democratic Sen. Brad Hutto said the proposal is “total nonsense,” and “more of the craziness we’re getting from the right-wing crowd.”

Hutto said lawmakers are supposed to be focused on running an efficient state government that deals with major problems facing the state, such as paving roads and improving its education system.

The Senate panel that cleared the measure Wednesday included a Democrat, Sen. Glenn Reese of Inman.

The language in Corbin’s bill addresses the gun issue by providing for the weaponry to be used by the state’s “unorganized militia.”

That militia is briefly mentioned in a section of state law dating back to 1881 that deals with the composition of the state militia. The unorganized militia is part of the state militia, which under current state law essentially includes all able-bodied state residents over 17 years of age.

Corbin’s legislation would allow residents to resign from the unorganized militia, “at which time he will resume his civilian status.”

Under the proposal, unorganized militia members would be allowed to keep all guns, ammunition and gun accessories that were lawfully available prior to Dec. 31, 2012, regardless of whether Congress passes legislation requiring citizens to relinquish some kinds of firearms or ammunition.

Corbin said the bill will protect the state’s militia, which he said could play an important role in the event of a conflict.

“If they (an enemy) were landing on North Carolina’s shores, I don’t see why we wouldn’t go up there and help our brothers fight,” Corbin said.

He mentioned the “Red Chinese” as a theoretical foe.

Reach Stephen Largen at 864-641-8172 and follow him on Twitter @stephenlargen.