In the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, last Tuesday, Charleston City Paper reached out to 34 community and state leaders and candidates via email and Twitter, with one question: “What are you going to do to reduce gun violence?”

In addition to live interviews with S.C. Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, and S.C. Rep. J.A. Moore, D-Charleston, we received eight answers, including one perturbed message. 

The original email, sent Thursday morning, asked for answers to be sent via email by Friday, though responses would be accepted through the weekend. When just two replies were received, we took to Twitter, from which we received another six responses, though S.C. Rep. Leon Stavrinakis’ (D-Charleston) response did not address the question at hand.

“If that’s how you are going to treat people, you can rest assured when I am ready to communicate to the public it won’t be through or in response to City Paper,” he wrote. 

Below are excerpts from the responses we received from each legislator, activist and/or candidate, along with some responses taken from surveys given to candidates for the coming primary elections:

S.C. Rep. Joe Bustos (R-Charleston): “Last November, I submitted a Gang Violence and Criminal Enterprise Bill that would strengthen law enforcement and deter those who would violate our laws … Violent crime that has been on the rise for months has not been adequately addressed. The bill I submitted, unfortunately, is still in the Judiciary Committee.”

S.C. Rep. Joe Jefferson (D-Berkeley): “Gun violence has been a major concern for all of us for years. My advice to the voters, comes down to several major decisions when voting for a candidate: Ask yourself the following questions: 1. Why would I vote for a bill that would allow an 18-year-old to carry a gun where it is visibly seen? 2. Why would I not support a bill that would allow anyone the opportunity to purchase a handgun without making sure that he/she is sane enough or responsible enough to protect oneself and others?”

U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Catherine Fleming Bruce: “As a senator, I will declare gun violence a public health state of emergency. I will support requiring background checks, addressing the issue of ghost guns and placing restrictions on assault weapons. I will also support gun restrictions for those with mental health issues or who have been convicted of domestic violence, stalking or sexual harassment (boyfriend loophole), and closing the Charleston loophole.” Bruce is running in the primary to run against GOP U.S. Sen. Tim Scott.

U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Angela Geter: “I would do more than thoughts and prayers. I would actually vote for gun reform. Gun rights are no more absolute than any other rights. Did you ask this question of @LindseyGrahamSC & @votetimscott neither of whom have done much to further the debate on gun reform or gun safety?” Geter also is running in the primary to take on Scott.

S.C. Rep. Wendell G. Gilliard (D-Charleston): “Continue to fight for gun reform laws such as background checks, installing chips in guns, banning assault weapons, installing metal detectors in all schools in S.C., stiffer penalties for selling guns illegally and leaving guns around through pure negligence and for straw purchases.”

S.C. Rep. Spencer Wetmore (D-Charleston): “I have and will continue to sponsor bills and advocate for background checks, closing the Charleston loophole, required training, purchasing age and mental health and community resources. I will work towards a bipartisan bill for the 2023 session.”

S.C. Sen. Marlon Kimpson (D-Charleston): “My record is pretty clear on this. I’m the sponsor of closing the Charleston loophole in the Senate. Support tougher bond requirements for repeat violent offenders. No Republicans voted on gun reform. Work like hell to elect Democrats.”

The following did not reply to the City Paper’s question prior to publication: 

S.C. House Republican candidate Kathy Landing, 
S.C. Rep. Sylleste Davis (R-Berkeley), 
S.C. Rep, Mark Smith (R-Berkeley), 
S.C. Rep. Gil Gatch (R-Charleston), 
S.C. Rep. Lee Hewitt (R-Charleston), 
S.C. Rep. Lin Bennett (R-Columbia),
S.C. Sen. Larry Grooms (R-Berkeley), 
S.C. Sen. Sean Bennett (R-Berkeley), 
S.C. Sen. Sandy Senn (R-Charleston)
S.C. Sen. Margie Bright Matthews (D-Charleston) and
District 1 U.S. House Republican candidate Katie Arrington

Official statements released, too

In addition to these direct responses to the City Paper, other state leaders released official statements or tweeted their thoughts and goals after the shooting.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.): “Hopefully over time we will have a better understanding of what led to these senseless acts. As to what to do next, I welcome a debate in the U.S. Senate about any and all measures that my colleagues believe will have an effect. Let’s debate and vote.”

District 6 U.S. Rep. James Clyburn (D-Columbia): “My bill to close the Charleston loophole, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021, can help save lives by ensuring law enforcement has enough time to thoroughly vet those who want to purchase a gun.”

District 1 U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-Charleston): “Laws won’t prevent someone’s intent on breaking them, but there are policies we cannot ignore. There are policies we can agree on and at the same time ensure we don’t take away any law-abiding citizen’s rights … Something as simple as merging criminal information across the state into a single database rather than several databases which is the case in South Carolina and most other states is an effective way to track the crimes and criminal records of those who break the law.” Mace listed several other options on Twitter as well.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.): “Our nation’s law enforcement agencies already have resources dedicated to keeping our country safe from domestic terrorism. Creating additional bureaucracy is not the answer. I am disheartened by the Left’s poor attempt to prioritize politics over the people impacted by the tragedy in Buffalo, particularly at a time when our country yearns for leaders to unify a broken community.”

Former U.S. Rep. and current S.C. gubernatorial candidate Joe Cunningham (D-Charleston): “I have been a leader on common-sense gun reform my entire political career. Not only did I sponsor and support legislation in Congress, but I released a plan to tackle gun violence in South Carolina almost a year ago. Not a damn thing has been done since I released that plan because our state’s leadership has sold their souls for political points in their primary.” 

U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Krystle Matthews: “I’m a strong advocate for gun reform laws. I’m a gun owner, but common sense has got to kick in when we keep losing our most vulnerable, our children. I’m a mother of five. Red flags, background checks, online sales — there are many ways we can be better, we MUST be wiser.” Matthews is running to take on Scott in November.

U.S. Rep. Democratic candidate Annie Andrews: “As a mom, a researcher and a pediatrician I am dedicated to gun violence prevention and I look forward to bringing my expertise and passion to Congress.” Andrews also shared several resources, including local podcasts and articles she feels corroborates her views on gun laws on her Twitter.

State Rep. candidate Donna Brown Newton: “Promote gun education, submit laws that will require background checks, up the age buying a gun, red flag law and ban open carry. Also I am a registered gun owner.” Newton is running for the S.C. House of Representatives from District 80 as a Democrat.

S.C. Rep. Deon Tedder (D-Charleston): “One thing I know for sure is that universal background checks, red flag laws and the safe storage of firearms will curb gun violence. I will continue to support legislation that provides accountability and common sense gun regulation.”

S.C. Rep. Marvin Pendarvis (D-Charleston): “I’ll continue to prioritize common-sense gun legislation like the seven bills that were never given a hearing this session. I recognize I can’t do it alone, so I’ll push federal leaders to act now and support municipalities in my district who are closest to gun violence. We must treat gun violence as a public health epidemic. The sooner we do that, the sooner we’ll be able to address the root cause of taking so many lives in our community. It’ll take a collaborative approach, but I’m committed to doing my part.”

Responses from candidate surveys

In addition to email and Twitter responses, the following statements were taken from candidate questionnaires sent to political hopefuls for the upcoming election:

S.C. House candidate Chris Staubes: “Our existing laws need to be enforced. The vast majority of gun owners are law abiding, so our focus needs to be on keeping guns out of the hands of those intent on using them illegally.” Staubes is seeking the S.C. House District 80 seat as a Republican.

S.C. House candidate Dixie Button: “Ensure that state criminal history files are integrated in the FBI database used by firearm dealers to conduct background checks. Require private sellers to conduct background checks. Provide and encourage the use of ‘gun training clinics’ at a low cost … Increase access to mental health services … for those dealing with bullying, suicidal thoughts, desperation, etc.” Button is seeking the S.C. House District 116 seat as a Republican.

S.C. House candidate David Artushin: “I want to close the ‘Charleston Loophole’ by requiring background checks on all gun sales in South Carolina. I will support the regulation of online gun sales, and address gun safety inside our homes by supporting legislation that requires safety locks for all guns in a residence.” Artushin is seeking the S.C. House District 112 seat as a Democrat.

S.C. House candidate Stephen Hilton: “Listen to the experts and provide them with the resources to implement the strategies that expert research has come up with. Most legislators are lawyers or businessmen — they have no experience to speak on this manner. Get rid of the Charleston loophole and always require background checks — what experts advise.” Hilton is seeking the S.C. House District 112 seat as a Democrat.

Charleston County Council candidate Larry Kobrovsky: “We must have zero tolerance for gun violence. I would encourage stricter penalties for crimes committed while using firearms. Every crime involving firearms risks death and life-threatening injuries to the victims or bystanders.” Kobrovsky is seeking the Charleston County Council District 2 seat as a Republican.

Charleston County Council candidate Millicent Middleton: “I will lead to reduce gun violence by promoting peace walks and community engagement. I will be holding a ‘Bring the Peace’ rally soon to address this issue.” Middleton is seeking the Charleston County Council District 8 seat as a Democrat.  

Charleston County Council candidate Joe Boykin: “I have led federal task forces, performed undercover assignments and performed outreach in school classrooms in an effort to reduce gun violence in our nation. I will continue this fight on county council by supporting Sheriff [Kristin] Graziano with the funding she needs to hire additional personnel and purchase any equipment needed to interdict illegal firearms and perform outreach programs.” Boykin is seeking the Charleston County Council District 8 seat as a Republican. 

Charleston City Paper still welcomes responses from those we’ve reached out to. Responses will be published online or in print at a later date.

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