Several legislators intend to push changes to South Carolina’s gun regulations and laws but inter-party schisms appear likely to shoot down any resolution in the gun control debate this upcoming Senate session.
There’s plenty of agreement that regulations need to be fixed, but no two opinions hit the same target. Republican senators indicated last week they would thwart the possibility of extending the three day waiting period for background checks to buy a gun, claiming it would do little to curb violence.
The proposal, known as the “Charleston loophole,” has come under the spotlight ever since the FBI revealed that Emanuel AME Church shooter Dylann Roof was able to illegally buy the gun he used just months earlier. The agency said mistakes made by law enforcement on Roof’s arrest record prevented them from properly tracking down drug charges that should have blocked the sale. Supporters of closing the “loophole” say the FBI may have been able to discover the charge, if given more time. But opponents say even the FBI has not taken that position.
State Sen. Greg Hembree, R-Horry, sponsored legislation this year which would allow law enforcement to act more quickly to process flagged gun permits. Hembree claims more law enforcement under current regulations would have prevented the illegal gun sale to Roof.
“Let’s see how we can make that more effectively, appropriately, and faithfully administered.” said Hembree, “I think is at least the lowest hanging fruit that has a real chance of passing into law.”
State Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, thinks the state needs much more regulation to curb gun violence, but insists none of those measures would pass a GOP-controlled Senate vote.
Hutto believes that the General Assembly should focus other pressing needs like road repairs, education reforms and job creation instead of wasting three weeks on gun control debates that are not likely to result in any new laws. He thinks that the General Assembly should abandon any discussion on gun reform until legislators are comfortable something would pass.
“I’m not saying this gun issue doesn’t matter,” said Sen. Hutto, “It doesn’t matter enough to tie up three weeks of the session and take away from other pressing issues.”
But State Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, recoiled at the thought of standing down attempts to pass more gun restrictions. To him, three weeks of discussion on the gun control debate would be worth the time given the severity of gun violence.
“I don’t want us to leave here confused. This is a major issue in South Carolina,” he said during a meeting with reporters last week. “If it takes three weeks, then we will take three weeks.” said Kimpson.
South Carolina faces some of the highest fire arm death rates in the country. The Center for Disease Control reported that South Carolina had the 10th highest firearm death rate in the nation during 2015.