Dylann Roof, who was given a death sentence for a cold-blooded shooting in a Charleston church, was the catalyst for the removal of the Confederate flag from Statehouse grounds. He has also had an outsized impact on how residents view gun rights in South Carolina. But no consensus has emerged the way it did for the flag, which is why the state might adopt an extreme law instead of passing any of several sensible gun bills it has also been considering.
Since Roof walked into Emanuel A.M.E. two years ago, the S.C. General Assembly has been pondering how to deal with the “Charleston loophole” that allowed Roof to obtain a gun to commit a massacre. Proposed bills would increase the background check waiting period from three days to five; shorten the time during which a person’s criminal history must be reported; and stiffen penalties for those prohibited from purchasing a gun but who try to buy one anyway. The bills were crafted to not curtail the rights of legal, responsible gun owners, only to make it harder for those who shouldn’t possess such weapons. But they did not meet the General Assembly’s annual crossover deadline, meaning no new law is possible this session. Besides, Gov. Henry McMaster had not signaled whether he would sign it.
What did make it in time to be considered for passage this year? A bill that would make it legal for residents to carry guns – concealed or openly – without a permit or training. It passed the House and is being considered in the Senate this week. McMaster said he would sign it if it reaches his desk.
As all of that is happening, elected officials in one of the state’s largest counties, Horry, home to ultra-popular Myrtle Beach, are hesitant to pass an ordinance that would make it less likely to have errant bullets from target practice flying through residential neighborhoods in unincorporated areas. County officials fear that easing the concerns of residents who literally find themselves hiding behind trees to avoid getting shot could be interpreted as a violation of the Second Amendment.
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“Most problems are within subdivisions where people are shooting guns off their back porch,” Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus told the council during a retreat where the group set a May 3 public hearing on a proposed ordinance.
This is occurring in a state that suffered one of the highest-profile shootings in recent memory and routinely ranks among the worst places in the nation for domestic violence. Tar Heels shouldn’t be fooled into believing this problem is confined to the other side of the state line. A version of the permit-less carry law debated in South Carolina is being pushed in the North Carolina legislature as well.
South Carolina routinely ranks in the top 10 for gun deaths and is considering legislation that could encourage even more gun ownership. North Carolina’s gun violence rate is middle-of-the-pack. It shouldn’t follow South Carolina’s lead on guns.