South Carolina's Democratic Congressmen Call for More Time for Federal Gun Background Checks

Feb 21, 2019

Congressman Jim Clyburn talks to reporters about proposed legislation to extend the waiting period for federal gun background checks
Credit Victoria Hansen

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and Congressman Joe Cunningham have proposed legislation to close the so called, “Charleston Loophole” by extending the waiting period for federal gun background checks.  Clyburn said Thursday he has the votes to pass it in the House.

The state’s two democratic congressmen joined more than a dozen others, including former and current Charleston mayors Joe Riley and John Tecklenburg, inside Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston.  That’s where nine parishioners were shot to death in 2015 in what's been called a hate crime.

Authorities admit the young man who killed the church members during bible study should not have been able to get a gun.  He had an arrest record for using drugs.  But they did not have time to process his background check within the required three days.  The crack in the system quickly became known as the Charleston Loophole.

Former Charleston mayor Joe Riley greets people following the press conference
Credit Victoria Hansen

Clyburn and Cunningham have teamed up with a Republican congressman from New York, Peter King, to propose  the “Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019”.  It calls for a ten day waiting period instead of three, giving authorities more time to review a potential gun buyer’s past.  If the check is still  not complete, the seller may be required to wait another ten days for an enhanced background check.  After that, the sale can proceed.  Clyburn says the legislation is long overdue.

“We seem to be developing a culture that allows us to accept these kinds of incidents and is growing numb,” Clyburn said.

Several people spoke about the growing wave of gun violence in the nearly four years since the church massacre, including teachers, parents and spiritual leaders.   Just recently in Illinois, some pointed out, another gunman who legally should not have been able to buy a gun, slipped through the cracks. 

Cameras lined one of two  church aisles.  Instead of applause, several speakers got an, “Amen”. It was anything but a typical press conference inside the sanctuary where nine people who welcomed a stranger lost their lives. 

It began with the church’s minister reading their names; Reverend Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton and Myra Thompson.