Activists hope to tighten SC, national gun restrictions

  • Friday, March 21, 2014

In 2010, five people for every 100,000 in South Carolina were murdered by someone with a gun.

Gun statistics in the state are grim – South Carolina is the seventh-deadliest state for gun homicides, according to the Center for American Progress study of 2010 data.

With those statistics in mind, South Carolina mothers, and others around the country, have recently come together to fight for stricter gun laws nationally.

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is a grassroots organization founded after the 2012 mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

“I was completely devastated by Sandy Hook, it looked and sounded like it could be any town in South Carolina. It appeared at the front like a very safe neighborhood school,” said Erin Dando, leader of the South Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action.

She reacted to the shooting with a fierce desire to protect her own children and joined the organization to help make statewide and national changes.

Moms Demand Action celebrated a national victory March 5 when social media sites Facebook and Instagram announced they will take steps to block illegal gun sales on their websites. “A month ago we launched a campaign to do something about illegal gun sales. There were 230,000 supporters across the country and they listened to us. Facebook and Instagram are changing their policy to help protect children and our communities.”

The policy change will include a user reporting system that can flag posts and users, deleting posts that advertise buying and selling guns without background checks, and blocking users who are under 18 years old from viewing such posts.

As regulated by the national Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, gun buyers are required to submit to an FBI background check when buying from a Federal Firearms Licensee. However, in South Carolina, buyers are not required to have a permit to purchase regardless of who they are purchasing from, Summerville Police Department Lt. Thomas Peterson confirmed. In addition to not needing a purchasing permit, private sales, such as those conducted on social media sites, can also easily circumvent background check laws.

Despite this “loophole,” as Dando calls it, new restrictions on social media sites will “ensure it’s more difficult for criminals, minors and domestic abusers” to have access to guns.

Nationally 17 states have extended background check laws to private sales, but South Carolina isn’t one of them.

In fact, in January the General Assembly passed a bill that would expand gun laws to allow Concealed Weapons Permit holders to bring firearms into a business that serves alcohol, provided carriers don’t consume any alcohol. One of the main supporters of the bill is State Sen. Sean Bennett of Summerville. Gov. Nikki Haley signed the bill into law last month.

The state has made some strides though, Dando said. Under a new law (South Carolina Code of Laws, Article 10, Section 23-31-1010) if a person is deemed to be dangerously mentally ill in court the court records are now a part of the background check documents.

According to the law, those deemed “mental defective” include the mentally ill who are a danger to themselves or others, “[lack] the mental capacity to ... manage the person’s own affairs,” are found insane by a court in a criminal case, or have been “committed to a mental institution” by a court.

Within South Carolina, Dando said Moms Demand Action’s newest efforts are to educate bar and restaurant owners that weapons legally can be brought into their businesses, but can be prohibited if the owners post a sign. “[Moms Demand Action has] created a very powerful voice. We’re working with Congress to be responsible and we’re seeing success.”

Mothers founded Moms Demand Action, but the organization isn’t just for moms. Dando said their membership is diverse, including all political views, ages and genders. To learn more about Moms Demand Action, South Carolina gun laws and national gun laws, visit www.momsdemandaction.org.

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