Politics & Government

This SC pastor is asking for your guns in wake of mass shootings, and will pay

Most Americans Want More Gun Control. Why Doesn’t It Happen?

Polls show solid support for stricter laws, especially after mass shootings. But there are also deep disagreement, staunch opposition and growing disenchantment with gun control.
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Polls show solid support for stricter laws, especially after mass shootings. But there are also deep disagreement, staunch opposition and growing disenchantment with gun control.

As the country mourns those killed and injured in mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio — and as suicide rates climb — a South Carolina pastor is launching a gun buyback program.

Rev. Hillary Taylor, a pastor a Bethany and Zoar United Methodist churches in Saluda, said she has raised more than $5,000 to help gun owners who have unwanted firearms to dispose of them safely.

A hunter and gun owner who said she has struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts, Taylor supports the Second Amendment “but I also know that guns and mental health problems are not a good mix. Self-harm becomes too easy – and too easily fatal.”

South Carolina’s suicide rate increased more than 38% from 1999 to 2016, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the country, and firearms account for nearly two-thirds of suicide deaths, the CDC says.

“Suicide is the largest component to gun violence and it’s something we’re not talking about,” said Taylor, who modeled her program after gun violence prevention efforts led by her favorite Christian activist and author, Shane Claiborne.

“(Gun buybacks) have not been done in a lot of rural areas,” she said. “Part of this is to see what the response is, and also to help people get access to suicide prevention materials and to make mental health resources in the area known. Hopefully, (we) will have some personnel on site to help provide resources.”

Taylor said she is coordinating with local law enforcement and other local churches to host a gun buy-back event from 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. on Sept. 7 in Saluda, a rural town northwest of Lexington County. At the event, gun owners will receive Walmart gift cards worth $100 to $200, depending the make and model of the firearm relinquished.

Saluda County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Toby Horne said the department will provide security and safety at the event, which will take place beside the picnic shelter near Saluda Town Hall, 100 South Jefferson St.

“If it saves one life we’ll be glad,” Horne said.

And whereas weapons relinquished at most gun buyback programs are destroyed, Taylor said it is her intent to disable and repurpose the firearms as tools or artwork.

Gun buybacks are fairly common. For example, in 2017, a group of Upstate pastors held a gun buyback event at the site of a double homicide in Spartanburg and have held similar events in the past, according to GoUpstate.com

Conway and North Charleston police, along with the Horry County Police Department, Horry County Sheriff’s Department and the S.C. Highway Patrol, have also held gun buyback events in the past.

And, Democratic presidential candidates are embracing proposals to buy back military-style weapons and ammunition after three high-profile mass shootings killed more than 30 people last week. Former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso have said they’re open to enacting a national buyback in recent days, according to the Associated Press.

This story has been updated with more details about the gun buyback program.

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Tom Barton covers South Carolina politics for The State. He has spent more than a decade covering local governments and politicians in Iowa and South Carolina, and has won awards from the S.C. Press Association and Iowa Newspaper Association for public service and feature writing.