On Monday, a day after another gunman shot and killed 49 people in an Orlando, Florida, nightclub, South Carolina Representative James Clyburn —who introduced an effort to address default proceed sales in Congress — and other Democrats protested the lack of action on that bill and other gun reform measures, punctuating a customary moment of silence by chanting “where’s the bill” from the House floor.
Two measures before the South Carolina legislature that would address the loophole also haven’t received a hearing. The proposals have been met with indifference from lawmakers who say they believe the background check system isn’t in need of reform — and fierce opposition from the National Rifle Association.
“In our state, the NRA is God,” said Gilda Cobb-Hunter, a South Carolina Democratic legislator. “Everyone is concerned about their NRA rating.”
Soon after the FBI acknowledged how Roof had bought the weapon, lawmakers vowed to address the issue. On the forefront was a proposal from state Senator Marlon Kimpson, a Democrat whose district contains the Emanuel church. He filed his initial legislation before the start of the regular legislative session in January.
Kimpson’s measure would not allow a gun sale to go forward without a completed background check. He also signed on to co-sponsor a separate bill introduced by another Democratic senator that would have narrowed the loophole by pushing the federally required three-day investigation period out to 28 days before a gun could be sold without a conclusive background check.
“I’m willing to compromise and work hard toward getting something meaningful,” Kimpson says. “Either one of them I could live with.”
In the state senate, Kimpson hoped Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin, who had been amenable to some moderate gun reform measures in the past, would agree to hearings. Martin is an NRA-endorsed conservative who faced three challengers in a primary on Tuesday.
Martin was viewed as potentially more favorable to the loophole issue than his counterpart in the House, Greg Delleney. “The feds dropped the ball,” said Delleney, referring to the clerical errors that figured in Roof’s default proceed sale. “There’s really no Charleston loophole.”
Yet Martin refused to hold hearings. “I’m not going to spend a lot of time on an issue that can’t pass and shouldn’t pass,” he said in May.
Martin softened his position somewhat after the legislative session ended in early June. “In fairness, I probably should’ve dealt with the ‘Charleston loophole’ because it’s a pretty sensitive topic,”he told the Post and Courier.
But he says he still ultimately viewed any effort to address the loophole this year as a dead end, noting that the NRA’s opposition to the measure assured its failure.
Martin says that the gun lobby has expressed concerns that the federal government would exploit its newfound authority to hold up sales to block purchases by law-abiding citizens.