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EXCLUSIVE: SC overwhelmingly backs background checks before buying guns, Winthrop Poll finds

One gun-control effort could find traction in South Carolina, including from Republicans, a new poll says.

Eighty percent of South Carolinians polled say they would support legislation requiring background checks be completed before a would-be gun buyer can take a firearm home, according to a new Winthrop Poll question, asked exclusively for The State.

That four-out-of-five majority agrees that buyers should wait to take their guns home, even if the background check takes longer than three days. Under current law, gun purchasers can take ownership of their weapons if a federal background check has not been completed after three days.

The poll surveyed 963 S.C. residents from Sept. 20 to 27. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

Responses were roughly the same regardless of political party. Eighty percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Democrats agreed with the gun-control measure.

The results suggest the proposal is not one that Second Amendment advocates would see as a threat, said Winthrop Poll director Scott Huffmon.

“Most folks of any political stripe don't see this as a gun-grab-type measure,” he said.

Instead, South Carolinians see it as “simply enforcing the intention of an existing law,” the pollster said. “I would hazard to guess that most people had no idea that the background check did not have to be completed before you got a gun.”

The results could bode well for lawmakers hoping to make gun-control legislation a top priority in the State House when they return to Columbia in January.

It shows that the people of South Carolina are in favor of a reasonable approach to curbing what is a clear, upward tick in gun violence.

– S.C. Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston

“It shows that the people of South Carolina are in favor of a reasonable approach to curbing what is a clear, upward tick in gun violence,” said state Sen. Marlon Kimpson.

The Charleston Democrat plans to introduce several gun-control bills in the Senate in January, including one that would require state and federal background checks be completed before gun purchases.

“Selling a gun before a background check is completed defies the purpose of having a background check,” Kimpson said.

Kimpson’s proposal is in response to the racially motivated slaying of nine African Americans at a Charleston church in June.

Dylann Roof, the alleged Charleston shooter, was able to buy a gun before a background check was complete because of the three-day waiting period rule and errors in the federal background-checking system.

The Winthrop Poll was conducted before Thursday’s deadly mass shooting at an Oregon community college. That massacre left 10 dead, including the gunman. Seven others were wounded.

In response to the Oregon shooting, President Barack Obama said Thursday that Americans have “become numb” to mass shootings, criticizing efforts to block gun-control laws.

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun-control advocacy group, there have been 45 school shootings in the United States thus far in 2015, including 17 shootings on college campuses. One was at the University of South Carolina, where professor Raja Fayad was shot and killed in February by his ex-wife, who then committed suicide.

State Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, an avid sportsman and Second Amendment defender, said he agreed that, ideally, a background check always should be completed before a gun purchase.

But the issue is more complicated than the Winthrop Poll suggests, he said.

Campsen said he wonders whether those surveyed considered the danger that lies in lifting the federal government’s deadline for allowing gun purchases without completed background checks.

“If you don't have some time limit, you could deprive a person of owning a gun,” he said, adding, “Sane, law-abiding people make up the vast majority of gun purchases.”

Campsen also questioned whether gun-control laws actually stop criminals.

If someone is going to violate the law against murder, they're perfectly willing to violate the law against carrying a gun unlawfully.

– S.C. Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston

“If someone is going to violate the law against murder, they're perfectly willing to violate the law against carrying a gun unlawfully.”

Reach Self at (803) 771-8658

Winthrop Poll: Gun control

The survey asked: “Currently, when a person purchases a firearm, if the background check takes longer than three days to come back, the buyer may receive the firearm without a completed background check if the seller agrees. Would you support or oppose legislation that would require a completed background check before a buyer can take possession of a firearm, even if the background check takes longer than three days to come back?”

All polled

80 percent: Support requiring a completed background check for a gun purchase

18 percent: Oppose requiring a completed background check for a gun purchase

3 percent: Not sure or refused to answer

Republicans and GOP leaning

80 percent: Support requiring a completed background check for a gun purchase

18 percent: Oppose requiring a completed background check for a gun purchase

2 percent: Not sure or refused to answer

Democrats and Democratic leaning

83 percent: Support requiring a completed background check for a gun purchase

17 percent: Oppose requiring a completed background check for a gun purchase

1 percent: Not sure or refused to answer

NOTE: Totals can exceed 100 percent because of rounding

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