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State senators listen to gun law concerns at public hearing in Charleston

Hundreds attend Senate sub-commitee public hearing on gun laws in South Carolina. Source: WCSC Hundreds attend Senate sub-commitee public hearing on gun laws in South Carolina. Source: WCSC
CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -

State senators are listening to the concerns of South Carolina residents when it comes to gun laws in the state. 

More than one-hundred people signed up to speak on Monday evening at the senate subcommittee public hearing on gun issues. It took place at the Stern Center at the College of Charleston.

Local leaders, gun violence victims and gun rights and reform advocates spoke out.

A big topic that came up was on closing what has become known as the "Charleston Loophole."

Last year the FBI, admitted that an error in the background check system allowed the suspected shooter at Mother Emanuel AME Church to buy a gun after a three day wait period.

In South Carolina a buyer can purchase and obtain a gun after a three day period that allows for a background check. If the FBI does not signal that a potential purchaser is prohibited from buying a gun in those three days, the buyer is granted the gun.

Gun violence survivor Sharon Risher asked the legislators to consider stricter gun laws. Her mother, Ethel Lance, was killed in the shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church. 

"I want you to feel what I feel on the death of nine people in a sacred space," Risher said to the senators. 

Jillian Hollingsworth spoke about the shooting at Townville Elementary last week. 

"As information trickled in we discovered that it was indeed Megan Hollingsworth, my sister in law, who was the teacher hit," Hollingsworth said.

A surgeon also talked about her experiences having a a three-year-old boy come into the emergency room who was shot in the head some time ago.

All those stories link back to gun violence and many wanting tighter gun laws.

Gun reform advocates are calling for universal background checks and a longer waiting period to close loopholes associated with gun purchases. Local leaders like the current mayor, former mayor and the police chief of the City of Charleston called for greater penalties for repeat offenders who carry illegal guns. 

"I think that there are opportunities for us on both sides of this as we understand that all of us want one thing, we want a community that is safe and not filled with trauma and destruction," Charleston Police Chief, Greg Mullen said.

On the other hand some don't support longer waiting periods to purchase a gun.

Robert Merting was at the hearing on behalf of the the gun rights group, South Carolina Carry.

"Any legislation that restricts who gets access to or how they get access to guns threatens gun rights," Merting said. "The changes that I want to see pushed are an increase in places we can carry fire arms for self- defense."

Another gun rights advocate said at the podium "Why should we expect that new laws will help this issue that we have, and it is an issue, when existing laws that we have we don't even enforce."

Some groups that are calling for gun reform say they are not looking to take people's guns away, however they want to "keep guns out of the run hands.

The wife and best friend of Senator Clementa Pinkney were at the hearing. Pinkney was one of the victims in the church shooting, he was also the pastor of the church. His best friend says he would have been there on behalf of the senators.

This is the second of four stops the state senator sub-committee will be making across the state. The hope for many in that room is that they will have some influence on the bills that are filed the next legislative session.

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