Opinion Extra

Reducing gun violence is just as important as solving opioid crisis

SC mothers speak against gun violence after losing sons

Brenda Henicks and Audrey Varner were among the parents who gathered at the State House on Sunday to speak about losing children to gun violence.
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Brenda Henicks and Audrey Varner were among the parents who gathered at the State House on Sunday to speak about losing children to gun violence.

Gun violence is a public health crisis that permeates our society. According to the Gifford’s Law Center, 829 people were killed by a gun last year in South Carolina. To put that number in perspective, 748 people were killed by overdosing on opioids in 2017, which prompted Gov. Henry McMaster to declare opioid overdoses a public health emergency. The state legislature also passed nine bills in an effort to curb overdoses in 2018 and formed a special committee to study the issue.

In response to gun violence, there have been no emergency declarations, no bills passed, and no committees formed by the state legislature, even though gun violence killed almost 100 more people in 2018 than opioids did in 2017. Both opioid overdoses and gun deaths are crises in South Carolina and should be treated equally by lawmakers. That is not happening.

I am one of the student activists that organized the March For Our Lives in Charleston last year, which called for state lawmakers to address gun violence. Along with others across the country, I felt unsafe in my school and decided to take action to prevent more young people from being killed by guns. According to The State newspaper, 39 children were killed by guns in South Carolina in the year following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Where is the committee to address those lives lost?

Jacob Gamble
Photo provided

The high rate of gun violence in South Carolina stems from the state’s weak gun laws, which allow firearms to fall in the wrong hands because of cracks in the system, like the Charleston loophole that allows someone to buy a gun if the FBI cannot complete a background check on that person in three days. Extending the amount of time that the FBI has to complete background checks is a common-sense way to ensure that everybody who buys a gun is fit to own one. A bill to close that loophole stalled in the state Senate last year and the same bill is sitting in subcommittees in both the House and the Senate.

One thing that will not combat gun violence is the expansion of gun rights. The movement within the State House to pass legislation to allow for the permit-less carry of concealed weapons will increase the number of gun deaths in South Carolina and put students and children in more danger than they are currently in. “Constitutional carry” will only add salt to the wound that gun violence has inflicted on our state and country. I implore state lawmakers to vote against this legislation and instead work to make our gun laws stricter by mandating universal background checks.

Attempting to pass legislation that expands gun rights while our country is in the midst of an epidemic of shootings is at best disingenuous. At its worst, it flies in the face of victims of gun violence and their relatives and the countless people across the country who have pushed for change in response to this era of mass shootings.

I am a part of “Generation Columbine,” an age group that has grown up in the era of school shootings. My generation has been defined by that and it is unacceptable. Students like me will continue to fight for gun reform and an end to the violence as long as it persists because previous generations have failed us.

Jacob Gamble is a freshman in the Honors College at the University of South Carolina and the chief strategist of Lowcountry Students for Political Action.
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