South Carolina lawmakers said last week early momentum surrounding gun reform fizzled out under the new presidential administration as Legislative Republicans turn their focus toward other issues.
“It wouldn’t be honest of me to say that some legislators are guided by the national conversation,” said Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, in an interview with The State published Feb.25. “And right now, it’s not being talked about because of the election of Donald Trump and his position with gun rights.”
Kimpson, who sat on the Senate Gun Issues Special Committee last year, sponsored a bill in 2015 expanding South Carolina’s mandatory waiting period on firearms purchases from three to 28 days. He said the FBI needs extra time to thoroughly vet any red flags uncovered during the background check process.
His now-defunct proposal, like others introduced as recently as December, attempt to close what gun control advocates dub the “Charleston loophole”— the clerical error that allowed a 21-year-old man to buy a .45-caliber Glock handgun without a completed background check in April 2015.
That man later opened fire during a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston on June 17, 2015, killing nine parishioners. In December, a federal jury found the gunman guilty of 33 offenses, including hate crime charges, and sentenced him to death. The gunman’s legal team requested a new federal trial earlier this month.
Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, said state Republicans’ refusal to address gun control proposals in the wake of such a tragedy makes the country less safe.
“Clearly, that’s not priority for them,” Smith told The State last week. “If you want to look at what has happened since the Charleston (Emanuel AME) shooting, we have taken a step backward in making our nation and state safer.”
State House Majority Leader Rep. Gary Simrill, R-York, told The State any attempt to thwart the Second Amendment wouldn’t get very far in the Legislature.
“From the vantage point of the (House) Republican Caucus as a whole, certainly honoring the second amendment is high on the agenda,” he said. “People talk about loopholes, but the clear indicator is how gun rights and second amendment rights have been stymied or stepped on by regulations.”
Despite strong Republican control of both chambers in South Carolina, Democratic lawmakers submitted more than two dozen gun control proposals during the early filing period in December.
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.
Both bills were referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee in January. Malloy told The State last week he doubts his proposal will “get much traction” as budget issues come to the forefront in the coming months.