Photo by Maria Lysenko on Unsplash

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg spoke for many last week after a mass shooting on the Eastside left nine shot and three law enforcement officers hurt:

“There’s been 230 mass shootings in America so far this year,” he said at a press conference. “It’s May 31 — that’s day 151 — that means there’s been just over one-and-a-half mass shootings per day in America.

“Every 16 hours in our country, there’s a mass shooting. I don’t know about you, but I’m angry about it. I’m mad about it. I’m fed up … Enough is enough, and this entire issue of gun violence has to be addressed.”

Unlike too many elected officials in South Carolina who won’t say what they will do to chill gun violence that’s infecting our communities, Tecklenburg took on the subject directly and quickly. For that, we owe him a great thanks. Now, we need other leaders to join the work to calm a local — and national — epidemic of gun violence.

In the wake of the Memorial Day shooting, which apparently migrated to South Street after large gatherings in North Charleston and Isle of Palms, Tecklenburg proposed eight “action steps” to cut gun violence in the Holy City.

  • Make more arrests in relation to the May 31 incident.
  • Create an accountability measure for landlords.
  • Reiterate the city’s request to the legislature to establish a graduated penalty system for repeat gun-use offenders.
  • Continue enforcement of laws already on the books.
  • Promote responsible gun ownership. Hundreds of guns, the mayor said, are stolen from unlocked cars every year.
  • Shut down excessive unpermitted events in public spaces. 
  • Review traffic measures in the Eastside neighborhood, specifically along South Street.
  • Review the city’s response to the May 31 shooting.

Other area leaders should immediately take similar tactical approaches. And state legislators need to get off their butts and do something more than just reviewing other policy ideas, as Gov. Henry McMaster suggested last week. They should show bold leadership — without bureaucratic and political delay — by closing the so-called Charleston loophole to keep guns out of the hands of sketchy people and by requiring tougher background checks. They should pass a hate crimes law. And they should pass a statewide assault rifle ban. 

Elected leaders also need to take to heart the pleas of local community activists like the Rev. Thomas Dixon who stresses the importance of working with residents to lessen threats from guns.

“You have to involve the pastors in the churches, the local nonprofits — every aspect of our elected officials and community leaders,” Dixon said. “When you see how to connect the dots, and when everybody understands their individual responsibility to do their part, then we can begin to address this.”

Serious gun violence requires serious action. Too many many innocent children and adults have died. Serious action means that elected officials need to get off their hands and do something, including partnering with neighborhood organizations to make our streets safer. It is no longer acceptable for elected leaders of all stripes to continue to do nothing. Those who do nothing should be thrown out of office.

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