2 South Carolina senators pre-file ‘Charleston loophole’ bills

Police tape surrounds the parking lot behind the AME Emanuel Church as FBI forensic experts work the crime scene, Friday, June 19, 2015 in Charleston, S.C. (Photo: Stephen B. Morton/AP Photo)

Police tape surrounds the parking lot behind the AME Emanuel Church as FBI forensic experts work the crime scene on June 19, 2015 in Charleston. (Photo: Stephen B. Morton/AP Photo)

Two South Carolina senators pre-filed legislation Tuesday addressing what gun control advocates call the “Charleston Loophole.”

Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington, introduced Senate Bill 159 to extend the waiting period on sales involving delayed federal background check results from three days to 28.

Sen. Mia McLeod, D-Richland, took it a step further in Senate Bill 143 by prohibiting any sale or transfer unless and until the background check process is complete and the buyer deemed legally allowed to possess a firearm.

The proposals come on day four of the federal trial for accused shooter Dylann Roof, who gunned down nine black parishioners during a bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015, in an alleged hate crime.

State Democrats and gun control advocates nationwide argue the clerical error that allowed Roof to buy a .45-caliber Glock handgun without a completed background check last year — aka the “Charleston Loophole” — should be corrected to prevent more guns from falling into the wrong hands.

FBI Director James Comey said in the weeks after the shooting inaccurate data collected from the Roof’s criminal record spurred a breakdown in the agency’s background check process. He was arrested on felony drug charges in March 2015, but filing errors in the local law enforcement reporting process didn’t record his admission of guilt — a detail, Comey said, should have returned an automatic rejection to the firearms dealer in Columbia where the Roof bought the gun.

Instead, the dealer proceeded with the transaction after the three-day waiting period had expired, despite Roof’s “pending” background check — a decision Comey said is well within the rights of the law.

State Republicans and other supporters of the three-day rule say attacking the waiting period won’t solve the problem.

“Anti-gun advocates are choosing to fault the three-day rule, suggesting that the examiner did not have enough time to finish the background check. But it’s clear that whether the FBI had three days or two months, they were not able to get the right answers because they were asking the wrong people,” wrote Larry Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, in a July 2015 blog post.

“This mistake does not call for changes to the statute, but instead improving our current system,” he added.

Keane said in 2014 the FBI delayed 9 percent of the applications processed through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Of those, another 12 percent were later denied.

Dr. John Lott, founder of the Crime Prevention Research Center and author of “The War on Guns,” said of the 2.4 million “initial denials,” some 99 percent are mistakes.

“Unlike private companies that do criminal background checks on employees, the government only uses names (not even bothering to check whether the middle names are different) and a person’s birthdate,” Lott wrote in an Oct. 24 editorial published by The New York Daily News. “Even though gun buyers provide their Social Security numbers and addresses, the background check system does not use this information to identify people.”

The lack of specificity disadvantages people with common names and is just one of the many errors with the existing system Lott said the federal government should fix in order to reduce gun violence.

South Carolina’s new legislative session will begin next month. State House representatives have a pre-filing deadline set for Thursday. Malloy’s and McLeod’s respective proposals were referred to the Committee on Judiciary for consideration.

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