Massacres at an Orlando nightclub June 12 and in a Charleston church last summer drove a crowd to the S.C. State House on Saturday to mourn victims and demand action against gun violence.
Speakers called for closing the so-called Charleston loophole that allowed accused Charleston shooter Dylann Roof to buy a gun before his background check was complete. They also called for lawmakers to pass an assault weapons ban and state hate-crime legislation.
Columbia legal assistant Tamekia Hunter Ross spoke about her nephew, one of 53 who were injured in the Orlando nightclub shooting. Her nephew was shot three times, once in each arm and once in his back, missing his spine by less than a half inch, she said.
He has had three surgeries and “daily is in excruciating pain, and nightly, he has night terrors reliving something that will remain with him the rest of his life,” she said, adding that “our government and laws failed my nephew and everyone at the Pulse nightclub.”
80 percent South Carolinians who said background checks should be complete before allowing gun purchases, according to a September Winthrop Poll
Organized by newly formed Progress South and supported by 35 organizations, the rally drew about 200 people to the State House grounds. Many wore black arm bands in mourning of the victims.
Demonstrators dressed in colorful T-shirts sat on the State House steps, forming a rainbow representing the 49 who died on Latino night at The Pulse when a gunman opened fire in the gay Orlando nightclub.
Another nine demonstrators wearing dark blue shirts represented the nine African Americans slain during a Bible study at Charleston’s “Mother” Emanuel AME Church a year ago.
As the victims’ names were called out at the end of the rally, the demonstrators, one by one, lay down on the steps.
When we tolerate any kind of hatred and violence against any one of us – whether male or female, young or old, straight or a member of the LGBT community, immigrant or citizen – violence grows.
Litzel Martinez-Garcia, Young Immigrants in Action
Michael Wukela, Progress South’s executive director, was one of several speakers who said that South Carolinians overwhelmingly support one gun-control measure that died in the S.C. Legislature this year.
Referring to a September Winthrop Poll, Wukela noted that 80 percent of S.C. voters think a background check should be complete before someone can purchase a gun.
Susan Smith, a Pawleys Island Democratic activist, said she recently heard a minister say that people must be patient but that love will conquer hatred.
Speaking after the minister at a recent vigil, Smith said, “Love is not going to conquer hate. The only thing at this point that is going to conquer hate is legislation to do something about gun violence.”
Litzel Martinez-Garcia, with Young Immigrants in Action, said when she heard about the Orlando shooting, she thought that, “Only a year ago, we were mourning the loss of nine beautiful lives.”
“And here we are again saying stop the violence,” said the 17-year-old who was born in Mexico and grew up in South Carolina.
“When we tolerate any kind of hatred and violence against any one of us – whether male or female, young or old, straight or a member of the LGBT community, immigrant or citizen – violence grows.”