Since 9/11 the greatest threat to the safety of our children and loved ones has not been Muslims or “Mexican rapists” but Americans armed with high-capacity military-grade guns, using them for the purpose for which they were devised: to maim and kill lots of people as efficiently as possible.
As the sadistic and uniquely American fad of spectacle shootings continues to build, the response by some is wearily the same. That is to offer “thoughts and prayers” for the victims while insisting that “now isn’t the time to talk about it.” But as one of the surviving students from Parkland recently said, it’s past time to talk about it.
I’ve been a state senator a long time, some will say too long. One thing I know from experience, though, is that good and lasting policy is crafted from the center, not the extremes. In order to create effective policy enhancing gun safety, Republicans must move past doing nothing other than allowing increasing access to guns. And Democrats must understand the Second Amendment isn’t going to be repealed.
As a Republican, I’m concerned with my party’s fixation on the slippery slope argument against any change in gun laws. That way of thinking says, for example, that banning bump stocks and high-capacity magazines is just the first step toward banning all guns. After both of those devices were used by a killer to shoot 481 concert goers in Las Vegas, we were told by Bill O’Reilly that the diabolical act was “the price of freedom.” It’s not. It’s outrageous and cannot be rationalized.
As a result of this mindset, mass shootings continue unabated while our debate is centered not on stopping these horrific acts but rather on expanding the use of silencers, defending bump stocks like those that allowed the killer to fire up to nine rounds per second into the Las Vegas crowd, and allowing people who may have never handled a gun to buy one, load it and brandish it in public.
What did the General Assembly do the year after a mentally ill boy massacred, in two minutes, 20 Sandy Hook Elementary School children and six adults using his mother’s AR-15 employing 30-round magazines? (Incidentally, the high-velocity .223 round fired from this rifle can leave an exit wound the size of an orange.) My colleagues filed a bevy of bills to loosen restrictions on obtaining and carrying firearms.
This is wrong. More guns will not reduce mass shootings. (The United States, with 5 percent of the world’s population, already has 50 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns.) What is needed first are bipartisan laws that tighten the net on people who already are not allowed to possess guns by law.
We did this in 2013 with passage of the Boland bill, named for Alice Boland, who was both mentally ill and had a record when she tried to shoot up Charleston’s Ashley Hall School.
Ms. Boland acquired a pistol from a gun dealer even though her name should have been included in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which would have prevented the purchase. The law we passed mandated the names of people adjudicated as mentally defective be sent into the database and, according to SLED, has been effective.
Last year, in response to the Charleston massacre, Democratic Sen. Marlon Kimpson and I introduced S.516 to largely close a loophole that allows those charged or convicted of violent crimes to purchase guns. The law would speed up the reporting to hte background-check system from our courts and law enforcement agencies.
From there we need to increase the penalties for second- and third-offense crimes committed in South Carolina with a firearm. S.C. police chiefs say the current penaltie are too lax. We also need to raise the age for purchasing firearms to 21, ban bump stocks and the sale of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. Some will say that’s an infringement on gun rights, but mass shooting victims hit with rounds 11-30 would likely disagree.
Law enforcement also must tighten up in addressing threats such as the Parkland shooter.
Lastly, adults must keep their guns secure and inaccessible to children.
Most of all we need to meet, talk, consider all reasonable remedies and take action. There’s certainly a need for “thoughts and prayers,” but as we’re told in James 2:17 “faith, if it does not have works, is dead.”
Without action, many more will be dead before year end. Now is the time to act.
Sen. Gregory is a Lancaster business owner; contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.