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GOP leader promises hearing on gun-control bill

Names of gun violence victims read at rally

Rally goers urge for tighter gun laws.
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Rally goers urge for tighter gun laws.

A proposal to tighten background checks before S.C. gun purchases will get a hearing this summer, the powerful head of a state Senate committee promised Thursday.

That announcement came after state Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, blamed Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Larry Martin, R-Pickens, for blocking his gun proposals.

In response, Kimpson threatened to block a proposal that would allow Georgians with concealed weapon permits to carry their weapons in South Carolina. However, after Martin’s promise, senators agreed Thursday to debate the Georgia proposal.

Meanwhile, about 100 protestors rallied at the State House Thursday, calling on legislators to tighten the state’s gun laws. Advocates for stricter background checks held ribbons and posters as the names of S.C. gun-violence victims were read aloud.

Those attending the rally said they want to close the so-called “Charleston loophole,” which some say helped lead to the slaying last year of nine Emanuel AME Church members, gunned down during a Bible study.

Before the Charleston slayings, accused shooter Dylann Roof, who faces murder charges, was able to buy a gun even though his criminal background check had not been completed.

Gun-control advocates say they wanted an extended period — 28 days, instead of three — for completion of background checks that are red-flagged for further investigation. They also wanted stronger penalties for those who violate gun laws.

“This is a matter that needs to be followed up on by people of peace,” said the Rev. Patsy Malanuck, canon for mission and outreach at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Columbia

Completing background checks before every gun sale would make a difference in South Carolina, Malanuck said.

“It is the will of the people to have background checks addressed,” Kimpson said at the rally.

Kimpson has filed several gun-control proposals this year, including a ban on assault weapons and requiring completion of background checks before a gun can be purchased.

Another Democratic state senator — Gerald Malloy of Darlington — also has proposed lengthening the maximum time that law enforcement can take to complete a background check to 28 days from the current three.

Later, on the Senate floor, Kimpson blamed Martin for blocking his background-check proposal, saying the Upstate Republican has refused the people of South Carolina a hearing on the bill’s merits.

Martin apologized but said, as Judiciary Committee chairman, he has to set priorities. After the Emanuel tragedy, Martin said the national attention that would focus on a background-check hearing would shut down Judiciary’s staff.

But Martin said Thursday he would hold a hearing on the gun-control proposals over the summer. However, the proposals would have to be reintroduced next year since this is the last in a two-year session.

Martin made that promise in order to win support for a proposal that would allow Georgians with concealed weapon permit holders to carry their weapons in South Carolina. The Georgia proposal also would allow South Carolinians with concealed-weapon permits to carry their guns in Georgia.

Senators voted 36-5 Thursday to give priority status to the Georgia concealed weapon permit proposal.

Critics say Georgia has less strenuous standards than South Carolina for obtaining a concealed weapons permit.

South Carolina now has reciprocity agreements governing concealed-weapon permits with 21 states — Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming, according to the State Law Enforcement Division.

Cassie Cope: 803-771-8657, @cassielcope

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