[image-1] Democratic presidential hopeful Kamala Harris tweeted her support for South Carolina students who are calling for state lawmakers to close the Charleston loophole, a flaw in the FBI background check system that allowed white supremacist Dylann Roof to buy the gun he used to kill nine black parishioners at Mother Emanuel in 2015.
Harris, a senator and former attorney general from California, announced her 2020 bid last week. Harris mentioned the Emanuel shooting in calling for stricter gun regulations.
“Almost four years ago, Charleston found itself at the center of a national tragedy when nine people were killed at Emanuel AME Church,” Harris tweeted. “Today, I stand with local student activists organizing for commonsense reform. It’s time to do the right thing.”
The tweet came after Lowcountry Students for Political Action held a rally on the steps of the South Carolina Statehouse on Thursday morning.
The Charleston-based student group organized last year’s March for our Lives in North Charleston. Since then, they have been lobbying lawmakers for common sense gun reform focused on protecting students.
[embed-1] “The students of the state are a real political force beyond just sitting at home tweeting about it,” said LSPA head Jacob Gamble, according to the Associated Press. “We’re actually going to come out here and show up and make noise.”
Gamble, a graduate of Ashley Ridge High School, is a freshman at the University of South Carolina.
[image-2] Thursday’s rally was held in support of Senate bill 154, which was sponsored by Sen. Marlon Kimpson of Charleston.
If passed, the law would require clerks of court, municipal judges, and magistrates across the state to report restraining orders, domestic violence convictions, and judgments related to stalking, intimidation, and harassment to the State Law Enforcement Division within two days.
Clerks of court would have 10 business days, as opposed to 30 days under current law, to report all other dispositions to SLED. In addition, law enforcement agencies would have one day to report restraining orders, domestic violence reports, and criminal incident reports to SLED.
The quicker reporting times are supposed to improve the information the FBI has at hand when deciding who gets a gun.
The bill also would close the “Charleston loophole” by extending the minimum wait time required for a federal background check to complete before a buyer can walk out with a firearm from three to five days. Kimpson’s previous attempts to extend the wait period have been unsuccessful. The senator has said that lawmakers will only take action when voters show up and make noise.
Currently, licensed gun dealers can proceed with a sale if the FBI takes longer than three days to check a buyer’s criminal history.
That’s what happened in April 2015, when 21-year-old Dylann Roof went to buy a .45-caliber Glock handgun. A quick check revealed a felony drug arrest, but that wasn’t enough to deny him a gun. If FBI examiners would have seen state records showing that he admitted to being in possession of a controlled substance, they would have denied him the purchase.
Instead, the clock ran and Roof was able to buy the gun he used to commit the tragedy that has haunted Charleston and the nation ever since.
“We are all sick this happened,” said then-FBI director James Comey. “We wish we could turn back time. From this vantage point, everything seems obvious.”
In July, the FBI gave background check examiners access to a previously underused database of over 400 million records in an effort to try to narrow the loophole.
Since Harris started making moves as a 2020 candidate, her mixed record on criminal justice issues as the top prosecutor in California has come under more scrutiny.
For instance, as attorney general in 2016, she opposed a bill to require her office to investigate shootings by police, and she declined to weigh in on state ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana and to reduce penalties for nonviolent crimes. And despite her personal opposition to the death penalty, Harris defended it in court as attorney general.