By Robert Kittle
South Carolina lawmakers will be dealing with several bills next year that would put new restrictions on guns. Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, plans to file as many as five bills, including banning assault weapons, requiring gun registration, and requiring a permit to buy a gun.
He says his first bill was prompted by the murders of nine people at the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston in June. Dylann Roof has been charged for that crime. Police say he was able to buy the gun he used because of a loophole in the law. The law requires a federal background check, but after three days a gun dealer is allowed to sell the gun even if the background check isn’t finished. That’s what happened with Roof’s purchase. Sen. Kimpson will file a bill that would require a background check to be finished before a sale, and would get rid of the three-day timeframe.
Another bill would require the registration of all guns, while another would require anyone wanting to buy a gun to first get a permit from the State Law Enforcement Division, similar to getting a concealed weapons permit. “We need to make sure that people carrying guns are properly registered, properly trained, so that those guns don’t get in the wrong hands and the people using them carry out lawful activities,” Sen. Kimpson says. “It’s not taking away your Second Amendment rights. You still have the lawful right to be armed. But we’ve got to be able to track and trace so that we can keep up with these guns.”
Another bill would ban assault weapons, which he would define as guns that are semi-automatic and have large magazines. “I believe that we ought not have people carrying military artillery on the streets of Charleston and the streets of Columbia,” he says.
His final bill would require a gun owner to report to SLED a lost or stolen gun.
Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, says he has no problem with eliminating the loophole in the background check law, as long as bureaucrats aren’t allowed to delay a purchase indefinitely. But he has big problems with the other bills.
“Gun confiscation begins with registration, and I will not go there,” he says.
“The federal ban on assault weapons didn’t change anything while it was in existence, and I certainly don’t think a state-level ban is going to do anything differently,” he says of that bill.
And he doesn’t think he should have to get a permit to buy a gun, especially since he’s a former police officer and soldier. “I don’t think I should have to be permitted to carry my weapon, under the Second Amendment, so I certainly don’t think I should have to be permitted to purchase,” he says.
He also doesn’t think a gun owner should be required to report a lost or stolen gun within a certain time period, partly because the owner might not be aware the gun was lost or stolen, but also because it puts the focus on the gun owner, instead of the criminal who stole it. He has a bill that would put much stiffer penalties in place for stealing a gun.
Sen. Kimpson says he hasn’t decided for sure whether he’ll pre-file all of his bills. He’s meeting with constituents first to get their input. “I am very respectful of the Second Amendment, but I am also very respectful of the fact that we have to do something about the escalating violence,” he says.