The Buzz

Senator to push S.C. gun-control bills

A Charleston state senator says he will introduce gun-control legislation in January in response to recent gun violence in his home city.

State Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, said the June 17 slayings at Emanuel AME Church and more recent incidents of gun violence show the need for tighter restrictions on gun ownership.

Kimpson said he hopes the state Senate will give his proposals serious consideration when it returns to work in January. “I don't think there is any dispute that there is a direct correlation between weak gun laws and violence,” Kimpson told The State on Monday. “It is within our power to do something about it.”

Kimpson’s proposals would:

▪  Close a three-day loophole that allows some S.C. gun purchasers to buy and take home a gun before a background check has been completed. That rule, and errors in the federal background-checking system, allowed alleged Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof to buy a gun.

▪  Require background checks to be conducted through the State Law Enforcement Division and the federal system before a gun sale can be completed

▪  Ban assault weapons, defined as semi-automatic firearms designed and configured for rapid fire

▪ Require reporting of lost or stolen guns

▪ Require state registration and permitting of all guns

The proposals likely face an uphill fight in the Legislature, controlled by gun-friendly Republicans. Pro-gun groups have opposed aggressively efforts to restrict gun ownership while backing proposals to expand Second Amendment rights.

For example, GOP lawmakers who questioned the safety of letting gun owners with concealed-weapons permits carry their guns into bars were targeted by pro-gun groups two years ago. That guns-in-bars bill became law last year.

State Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee that oversees gun legislation, said he opposes any new gun-control rules that go beyond those that already exist in federal law. “There is absolutely no appetite for gun control or gun registration,” he said.

But Kimpson said the Charleston church shootings, which killed nine African-Americans including a state senator, “opened people's minds to doing things in the State House that have never been done before.”

Less than a month after the shooting, lawmakers voted to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds, a feat many thought impossible before the tragedy.

Also, in April, a North Charleston police officer shot and killed Walter Scott, an unarmed black man. That incident, Kimpson said, “changed the tone of the debate with respect to law enforcement,” leading to the passage of a statewide law requiring police to wear body cameras.

Kimpson said he hopes his proposals will start a debate about curbing gun violence, adding they should not be seen as “penalizing people who lawfully own guns.”

“If this legislation is passed, criminals will face more penalties” and more checks will be in place to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, he said.

Reach Self at (803) 771-8658.