COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – More than 100 people held onto ribbons and spread out to try to circle the South Carolina Statehouse Thursday, calling on state lawmakers to close a loophole in gun background checks. That loophole gives authorities three days to do a background check on someone trying to buy a gun and a dealer is allowed to sell a gun after that even if the background check isn’t finished.
That’s what happened in the case of Dylann Roof, who’s charged with killing nine people last year at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston. Because of a clerical error, Roof’s background check wasn’t finished after three days and a gun dealer sold him the gun he allegedly used in Charleston. He would not have been allowed to buy the gun because of a previous drug charge if the background check had been completed.
Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, sponsored a bill to require a background check to be completed before a gun can be purchased. “It does not make any sense under any scenario to have a background check that does not have to be complete,” he told the crowd at the rally.
Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Hartsville, sponsored another bill that would give authorities 28 days to complete the check instead of the current three. “Why would we not? Because it’s not going to stop you if you’re entitled to end up having one,” he says. “If you go in and you’re clear, you’re just clear.”
But none of the bills even got a hearing. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, says he didn’t think it would have been a wise use of limited staff resources because the bills would have taken a lot of time and were not likely to pass. That’s because opponents think giving the federal government a longer time, or unlimited time, to complete background checks would allow it to never approve anyone. However, Sen. Martin told senators Thursday that he would schedule hearings on the bills over the summer.
Melody Geddis McFadden was one of the people at the “Hands Around The Statehouse” rally. Her niece, Sandy Geddis Barnwell, was shot and killed two years ago in Myrtle Beach, along with Devonte Dantzler and Jaime Williams, during Memorial Day Bike Fest. “It makes no sense at all that you can go to the beach to have fun and people have guns there,” she says.
She thinks improving the background check system would save lives. “I’m a veteran. I have no problems with the Second Amendment rights and with people having guns, no problem at all. I have a problem with guns being in the hands of the wrong people.”