CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and Rep. Joe Cunningham have introduced new legislation in yet another attempt to try and close the “Charleston Loophole," which earned its name because the “loophole” in the gun background check system is why Emanuel AME gunman Dylann Roof was able to obtain the gun he used in the massacre of nine black parishioners in 2015.
In announcing the bill, which is titled the “Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019," Clyburn cited statistics that in 2016, more than 4,000 guns were sold to people with criminal records, mental illnesses and other circumstances which disqualify them from buying a gun due to the inability to complete background checks within three days. The bill would extend that period to 10 days.
In an attempt to placate opponents of the bill, it also has a provision that if the escalated background check is not completed within the required 10 days, then the sale may proceed.
Due to Roof’s admission during an arrest in late February that he was in possession of drugs, he should not have been permitted to buy the gun he used in the massacre. However, an agent working for the FBI’s background check system who was performing the review on Roof failed to contact the Columbia, South Carolina, police department which arrested Roof, in part because of a clerical error in records listing the wrong agency. Then FBI Director James Comey admitted the agency erred in July 2015, less than a month after the shooting.
This isn’t the first time lawmakers have tried to push through a closure of the loophole. Other bills have been filed at the state level and former First District Rep. Mark Sanford also pushed for extending the period for background checks during his final months in office.
The bill has also been introduced at the state level again during the 2019 legislative session.