4 years after Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting; lawmakers face uphill battle for gun control


COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- It’s been 4 years since the murder of 9 church members at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. But it’s been an uphill battle for lawmakers looking to enhance gun laws and improve gun safety.

Lawmakers have filed several bills that could tighten gun restrictions here in the state and limit who can have a firearm.

Representative Wendell Gillard is just one of many lawmakers hoping for change. The Charleston lawmaker recalled the night he received the call about the tragedy and how the state should be responding.

“We need more stringent laws. we need more stringent laws for people who are careless. We need more stringent laws for people who to choose and buy and operate with a license and yet they sell them underground.”

In the legislative session immediately following the murders at Mother Emanuel AME Church, lawmakers wasted no time filing legislation to strengthen the state’s gun laws.

1 bill extends the time frame one has to wait for a background check before buying a gun. Right now, the state calls for 3 day waiting period; however, after that time the sale of a firearm is up to the store owner.

It’s an exception to the rule many lawmakers have referred to as the “Charleston Loophole.”

“If Dylann Roof had chosen to go up the street and around the block he could have gotten a bigger gun for less of a purchase,” Representative Gilliard continued.

If the law passes, the waiting period would go from 3 to 5 days. A similar bill filed in the Senate calls for a 10-day waiting period.

Another bill makes sure the most up to date information is in the system for background checks.

Representative Beth Bernstein, one of the cosponsors of the bill, explained, “Because Dylann Roof was able to purchase a gun if otherwise if the reporting was done properly because he was convicted of a crime making him unable to purchase a gun really highlighted the deficiencies in the law.”

Those same bills have been refiled every year since 2016. “It’s unfortunate that as a legislative body we have been unable to make any strides in this area,” Representative Bernstein added.

In contrast, legislation that would expand gun possession has moved quickly in the State House. The “Constitutional Carry Act of 2019” was able to bypass the Senate committee process and will be taken up for debate on the Senate floor next year.

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