A bill aimed at toughening background checks for gun purchases cleared a subcommittee Wednesday, but faces opposition from at least one senator who says the bill is flawed.
The proposal, co-sponsored by state Sens. Greg Gregory, R-Lancaster, and Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, would speed up the reporting process for clerks of court to report to the State Law Enforcement Division the outcome of court cases that could result in barring a would-be owner from having a gun.
Clerks now have 30 days to report. The proposal would cut that to no more than 10 days and, in some cases, as few as five.
The bill also would expand to five days the period that someone wanting to buy a gun must wait for a background check to be completed, giving authorities more time to determine whether a would-be buyer legally can purchase a gun. Under current law, if a background check still is pending after three days is up, the gun sale can be completed.
Expanding the waiting period is an attempt to close, to some degree, the so-called “Charleston loophole.” After the existing three-day waiting period had expired – but with his background check still pending – now-convicted killer Dylann Roof bought the gun he used to slay nine African-American churchgoers at Charleston’s historic “Mother Emanuel” AME Church.
A panel of senators agreed Wednesday to send the bill to the full Senate Judiciary Committee where several amendments are expected.
But some critics say it doesn't go far enough.
State Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington, said the bill could do more to close the Charleston loophole, rather than simply "shrink" it. He also said the bill includes no way to ensure municipal courts report court cases to SLED. Those courts all use different reporting databases, he said.
Malloy wanted to keep the bill in subcommittee against the wishes of other senators to move it to full committee for debate, where it would be one step closer to becoming law.
Supporters of the bill, including some gun-control advocates, have said that the modest, two-day expansion of the waiting period for gun purchases could help the bill pass. Expanding the waiting period any more could doom the bill, which must get through a Senate committee, and the GOP-controlled Senate and House or else it dies at the end of the legislative session.
Jamie Self: 803-771-8658, @jamiemself