In 2016, 891 people who died in South Carolina shared something in common: a gun was used in all of their deaths. That means our state has a firearm death rate of 17.7 deaths per 100,000 people, the tenth highest in the nation according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This rate has been consistent for years, yet nothing is done to prevent these deaths.
According to the Small Arms Study, there are too many guns, and more guns than people, to stop production and make an immediate difference in the U.S. right now. However, that does not mean there is no way we can curb the number of gun related deaths.
South Carolina Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, R-Murrell’s Inlet, said hearts need to change before anything. The state legislature can’t regulate hearts, though. It can adopt gun control measures used by other states with fewer gun deaths and at the very least, try to stop any unnecessary deaths of South Carolina’s population.
To start, anyone buying a gun needs to undergo a background check. In South Carolina, private sellers do not need to perform a background check or see identification before selling a gun. This creates what’s known as the “gun show loophole,” in which guns can become untraceable and end up in the hands of people who may be banned from buying guns from licensed dealers. These types of sales are only a small number of gun show sales, and any private deal between two people couldn’t be regulated properly, but it is still worth it to enact such a simple law to prevent guns from ending up in the wrong hands.
Furthermore, South Carolina legislators should follow some of the examples of a state like Massachusetts where the firearm death rate is at a much smaller 3.4 deaths per 100,000 people. Massachusetts has a ban on assault weapons and bump stocks, mandates that weapons must be unloaded and locked up when not in use and bans mentally ill people from owning a gun.
Massachusetts’ law banning the mentally ill from buying a gun is an important one due to the mental health conversation that frequently goes along with gun control discussions. The majority of these gun deaths come from suicide. Some have a tendency to write this part of the discussion off, as if these deaths are inevitable.
While it is true gun control measures have not made much progress in South Carolina, and our gun laws are abysmal, this does not mean that the conversation around guns does not exist. State Sen. Greg Gregory, R-Lancaster, proposed a ban on firearms with magazines with a capacity of 10 or more bullets earlier this year. This would not stop suicides or many murders, but it would make mass shootings far less probable.
Another bill circulating the legislature was conceived after South Carolina’s deadliest mass shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. A background check flagged the shooter in this massacre, but because the background check was not completed in S.C.’s three-day deadline, the shooter had already obtained his guns. The bill would increase this deadline to five days to give officials more time to determine if something is wrong.
None of these ideas will stop crime altogether. No proposal will. However, they infringe very little, if at all, on South Carolinians’ rights. It is unacceptable to continue to let people die without trying anything new, and if these ideas are enough to stop just a few deaths, they will have been worth it.