GUN FANS AND gun foes don’t often find common ground, so it’s always worth applauding when they do, no matter how small that plot of ground may be. So cheers to Sens. Greg Gregory and Milton Kimpson, who filed a bill last month that they say would close the Charleston loophole.
Truth be told, the “close the loophole” part of S.516 isn’t as impressive as it sounds: It only increases from three to five the number of days the FBI would have to find Dylann Roof-style problems in a purchaser’s criminal background before a gun purchase may proceed. And that part of the bill would expire after two years.
But Sen. Kimpson, who has been trying since the Charleston Massacre to allow the FBI to complete background checks before guns are sold, wisely noted that this was better than the nothing our Legislature was willing to do in the immediate aftermath of the killings.
More importantly, we wouldn’t need those extra days nearly as much if the other part of the bill works the way Sens. Gregory and Kimpson hope. That part shortens the time police and court officials have to record criminal information in the database that’s used to check whether people can legally purchase firearms. Additionally, a committee of court and police officials would recommend ways to make the reporting system more accurate and efficient.
It’s disturbing, if they think it will work, that neither side in the gun wars proposed this sort of thing before. But now is better than never, and again, it’s the willingness to seek common ground that’s most encouraging.
Meanwhile, in the House.
Oh my, the House.
You likely have heard about the “constitutional carry” bill, promoted by representatives who insist that the Constitution allows them to carry guns without restriction, but who obviously don’t believe that enough to just strap on their guns, get themselves arrested and trust a court to agree that they don’t have to obey the law. Their bill to let people carry guns without any classroom or firing range training or background check was introduced on a Tuesday and passed by subcommittee in just five minutes on Thursday. The public hearing didn’t take long because the two opponents on the five-member panel were out of town and, like the public, didn’t have enough notice to attend the hastily called meeting. The House is likely to pass it on Wednesday.
You probably haven’t heard about the other stuff H.3930 does. Like allowing guns on school campuses. And allowing children to carry guns in ways that should disturb grown-ups. And drastically reducing the penalty for carrying guns where they would remain banned.
Set aside whether it’s smart to invite people to carry guns who have no idea how to use them and have never seen the list of places it’s illegal to carry them and don’t know when it is or is not legal to shoot someone. Because obviously the bill’s 50 sponsors aren’t worried about such niceties. Instead, let’s talk about that stuff you hadn’t heard about.
Starting with 8-year-olds, and 15-year-olds, and all other variety of children.
Our current law says people can’t carry guns off their own property unless they meet one of several criteria. (One is having a concealed weapons permit.) The bill changes this section of the law to apply to people younger than 21, and in some cases liberalizes the list. That means 7-year-olds can carry guns only under certain circumstances. Which means those children, and others, can carry guns under some circumstances: on their bodies when they’re in a car; on any property where the owner — not their parents, but the property owner — says it’s OK. It means 14-year-olds can legally carry guns “while in justified defense of self, property, or another.” Can you say “raging hormones,” and “brains that are not yet fully developed,” and “we’re actually encouraging this”?
Another section of the bill looks like it retains the ban on taking a gun onto school property unless it’s in a locked glove compartment. But a convoluted new phrase tacked onto a poorly written sentence says that ban doesn’t apply if the gun is “possessed by a person with a valid permit” to carry a gun. (The state would still issue concealed weapons permits for people who want to be able to carry their guns in other states. Or, it seems, on school property.)
Then there are the penalties for taking guns where they aren’t allowed, or refusing to leave when you’re asked. Current law says if you do either, you can be jailed for a few days or given a small fine — but the real punishment is that you lose your gun permit for five years.
But if you don’t need a permit to carry a gun, that punishment becomes meaningless. And the bill proposes to add what new penalty instead? None. Which means that a bill championed by people who say we just need to focus on criminals with guns would slash the penalty for someone who brings a gun into your child’s kindergarten, or carries a gun into your home and refuses to leave when you ask him to.
Fortunately, the bill probably won’t become law, because we have Republicans in the Senate like Mr. Gregroy who aren’t insane. Of course, the Senate bill probably won’t become law either, because we have Republicans in the House like the ones who sponsored this monstrosity.
Ms. Scoppe writes editorials and columns for The State. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook @CindiScoppe.