South Carolina has — unenviable distinction — the third highest rate per capita for homicide by firearm, almost twice the national average. Once again, thank God for Mississippi (and Louisiana).
Yes, violence occurs everywhere. But I can’t believe that South Carolinians are naturally so much more violent than people in Minnesota or Hawaii, or more sinful than New Yorkers or Iowans, which all have homicide rates a fraction of ours.
Our gun laws are lax. South Carolina doesn’t require the buyer of a firearm to pass a background check if the seller is not a federally licensed dealer. And even prohibited purchasers can buy a gun from a licensed dealer if the background check doesn’t come back in time, thanks to the Charleston loophole. It looks like we are not even trying to make life difficult for criminals.
Of course no single law can eliminate all gun violence, but in states where comprehensive background checks are required, 46 percent fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners, and 48 percent fewer law enforcement officers are shot and killed in the line of duty.
A special Senate committee on gun laws will hold its final public hearing at 6 p.m. Thursday in Columbia. The choice is ours: We can do nothing, and keep our shameful ranking, or you can join me in asking our Legislature to close the loopholes in our background-check law. It is a question of public safety.