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Gun violence prevention groups hold panel discussion, push for new gun laws

Source: WCSC Source: WCSC
CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) -

Confronting Gun Violence, that's the title of a panel discussion to discuss ways to make South Carolina a safer state. 

Organizing for Action hosted the panel discussion in downtown Charleston. It's a movement of millions of Americans coming together to fight for change. The local group's focus is gun violence prevention. 

Gun violence can change lives forever.

"Gun Violence is a public health issue," panelist Dr. Richard Hagerty with Arm-in-Arm said.

It's something Mattie Westry experienced in her own family from a relative who had PTSD after serving in the Air Force.

"He killed his twin brother, only 32 years old," Westry said.

It's stories like this and others that have several local gun violence prevention groups coming together to push for new gun laws statewide. Their hope is to help keep guns out of the wrong hands.

Katherine Matthews is looking to get more involved in bringing about change.

"I felt like this would be a place to get informed and find a way to take action," Matthews said. 

State Sen. Marlon Kimpson recently cosponsored Bill 516 that would extend the background check waiting period from three to five days temporarily. Right now if a background check isn't completed in three days, the supplier can still sell the gun.

"An epidemic that I consider one of the most important health hazards in this nation and in this state," Kimpson said.

The bill would also improve and expedite the crime reporting system in South Carolina so when a National Instant Criminal Background check is completed the information is updated.

He initially introduced a bill that would increase the background check waiting period to a longer time, but it didn't gain enough support from Republicans. The current bill is a compromise. 

"How many people do you think are killed by a gun each day, how many each day? It's 93, 93 Americans a day are killed," said panelist Merrill Chapman who is President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

The goal was to mobilize people to take action. 

Panelist Thomas Dixon with The Coalition said posting on social media about issues is not enough.

"[We need to] to physically commit ourselves and get others to be committed to show-up," Dixon said.

Westry says she knows it's not going to be a quick fix.

"It's going to take some time, and push our Senators that need to push these laws and our concerns about communities...everybody should not have a gun" Westry said.

This proposed bill recently stalled in the State House and the session is almost over. The next time the bill will be considered is in January of next year.

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