Thursday, March 22, 2018

Senate bill to extend background checks for gun purchases lingers in committee

The extra time would ostensibly close the so-called "Charleston loophole"

Posted by Adam Manno on Thu, Mar 22, 2018 at 3:42 PM

click to enlarge In December 2016, Palmetto State Armory ran dozens of billboards in the Charleston area promoting buying guns for loved ones for Christmas - SAM SPENCE
  • Sam Spence
  • In December 2016, Palmetto State Armory ran dozens of billboards in the Charleston area promoting buying guns for loved ones for Christmas
The Senate Judiciary Committee did not vote on a bill filed more than a year ago to extend background checks for gun purchasers from three to five days on Tuesday.

The bill, S. 516, is sponsored by Sens. Marlon Kimpson, a Democrat from Charleston, and Chauncey Gregory, a Republican representing Lancaster and York counties. It was initially filed on March 8, 2017.

Senators said that close to 93 percent of background checks conducted during licensed gun sales are cleared in the first two minutes, but that the rest are held up for various reasons.

In 2016, 4,170 guns were sold to people in the U.S. with criminal records, mental illnesses, and other issues that would normally prevent such purchases, according to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The bill seeks to extend the time the FBI has to conduct these checks before purchasers are cleared, but it also includes provisions for local clerks of courts, magistrates, and municipal judges to report things like restraining orders, domestic violence convictions, and instances of stalking or intimidation to the State Law Enforcement Division within 48 hours.

Senators say it can take up to a month for that information to reach SLED, which provides federal authorities with information to conduct the screenings.

The bill includes a deadline for the five-day background check no later than two years until the reporting system between courts and state law enforcement is improved.

"Regardless of the number of days it takes, a background check should be complete before we sell the firearm," Sen. Kimpson said in an interview with CP. "We extended the background check to five days for two years because that is the expected time frame that it’s going to take to clean up the system."
Sen. Shane Massey, a Republican from Edgefield, said he was concerned about the negative effects the bill may have on firearm dealers in border areas.

"If [other states'] period under federal law is three days, and it takes longer over here, I think it’s going to have an impact on people going across the river or across the border to deal with that, potentially," he said.

Sen. Kimpson argues that the bipartisan bill moving out of subcommittee represents a step forward for a state that is traditionally averse to gun control legislation.

"We’re moving forward," he said. "These types of bills aren’t easy to get moving. Business bills pass every day because they have highly paid lobbyists who work these issues. There are no gun reform lobbyists that are paid. This is all sweat equity put into it by people who care about this legislation."

A 21-year-old Dylann Roof was allowed buy the handgun he used to kill nine parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in 2015 because of a breakdown in the background check and reporting system that failed to reveal that Roof had admitted to drug possession after a felony charge, according to The New York Times.

“We are all sick this happened,” FBI director James Comey said at the time. “We wish we could turn back time. From this vantage point, everything seems obvious.”

He added that the examiner who was charged with conducting the background check was "heartbroken."

Those who have a concealed weapons permits are exempt from federal background check requirements in South Carolina, according to the Giffords Law Center, a gun control advocacy group.

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