The Buzz

A year after Parkland, SC students to rally for gun background checks at State House

State lawmakers are slated to consider a measure this year that would tighten background checks on gun purchases. And a student group wants to make sure they take action.

Lowcountry Students for Political Action, an alliance of mostly high school students, is planning to hold a rally at the S.C. State House on Jan. 31.

The group was formed in the aftermath of last year’s deadly mass shooting in a high school in Parkland, Fla., which sparked student walkouts at high schools in South Carolina and across the country and a student-led March For Our Lives at the State House last March.

Now LSPA is pushing for a vote on a bill that would require more time for background checks on gun purchases. Senate bill 154 would expand the background check period from three to five days before a gun purchase can be approved. It also would speed up how quickly criminal convictions are added to the background check system.

After the proposal stalled in the last legislative session, this month’s rally will push to get the bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee. Students are promoting the event with the social media hashtag #Get154ToTheFloor.

“Our goal is to get the ball rolling on gun reform,” said group member Jacob Gamble. “Up until forever, people have talked about it, but nobody has made it happen.”

Gamble helped start LSPA last year as a senior at Ashley Ridge High School in Summerville. He is now promoting the event among his fellow students at the University of South Carolina to create a second group that can push for the bill.

“That way, they can stop coming up here (from the Lowcountry) whenever we need them,” Gamble said. “We’ll have someone here to represent our voices.”

The bill would address the so-called “Charleston loophole,” which allowed the gunman in the 2015 Charleston church shooting to purchase a gun despite his criminal record when the background check period expired.

Charleston Democratic Sen. Marlon Kimpson — who is co-sponsoring the bill with Sen. Greg Gregory, R-Lancaster — said he appreciates the student’s efforts.

“They are our best hope to get this through,” he said.

Gregory agreed.

“Since Parkland, students have been very effective,” he said. “It’s good for high school students to be involved in any political issue.”

The students helped organize a Charleston town hall for Parkland survivors over the summer and held voter registration drives in their schools last fall. But the rally later this month will likely be its biggest undertaking since the Charleston March For Our Lives last year.

Students are deeply concerned about gun violence and will stay active on the issue, said LSPA member Sydney Clinton.

“After Parkland, the fire alarm went off during lunch and everybody was shook up, because that’s what happened at Parkland,” said Clinton, a 17-year-old junior at Fort Dorchester High School in North Charleston.

That level of concern from young people will keep the issue at the forefront, Gamble said.

“We’re not going away,” Gamble said. “People care, and we want people to see how much we care.”

S.C. Comptroller gets hitched

A high-profile S.C. power couple have tied the knot.

S.C. Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom married longtime girlfriend Kelly Payne over the holidays, according to a Facebook post from the new Kelly Eckstrom.

“Finally after ten years he asked me!” she wrote in a December Facebook post. By the end of the month, she had changed the name on her profile from Payne to Eckstrom.

Through a spokesman, Richard Eckstrom said he doesn’t comment publicly on his private life, but Kelly Eckstrom confirmed the recent nuptials to The State.

The relationship between the two has been in the spotlight for some time. In 2010, a series of love emails between the two were leaked.

Eckstrom was married at the time, but living apart from his wife. Payne was divorced.

The emails came out while Eckstrom was running for his third term as the state’s top accountant and Payne, then a Dutch Fork High School teacher, was running for state superintendent of education.

Payne’s bid for office failed in a GOP primary, but Eckstrom went on to win re-election, and won a fifth term as comptroller general last November, running unopposed. The job includes acting as a fiscal watchdog in state government and includes a seat on the state’s powerful Fiscal Accountability Authority.

Bristow Marchant is currently split between covering Richland County and the 2020 presidential race. He has more than 10 years’ experience covering South Carolina. He won the S.C. Press Association’s 2015 award for Best Series on a toxic Chester County landfill fire, and was part of The State’s award-winning 2016 election coverage.