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Add sensible gun reform to South Carolina's priorities

Close the Loophole

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It's past a reasonable time for the General Assembly to add sensible gun reform to its to-do list. In 2019, state lawmakers must get something done.

Three and a half years ago, a madman gunned down nine people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, including the state senator who served as the church's pastor. Among the gunman's weapons was a handgun bought after expiration of a three-day waiting period for a background check. If federal examiners had more timely access to state and local law enforcement records, "they would have seen that he admitted to being in possession of a controlled substance and denied [his] purchase of the .45-caliber Glock handgun he later used at the church," according to the Charleston City Paper.

Since the tragedy, several S.C. lawmakers offered state legislation to close the loophole that allowed thousands of people in 2016 in the U.S. to get guns because the time period background checks ran out. In 2018, a bipartisan-backed reform measure stalled, just as it had in years before.

Legislators in 2019 should demand a vote on closing what has been called the "Charleston loophole" to extend the waiting period for purchasing guns from three days to five days. (More than 90 percent of background checks reportedly are cleared within two minutes.)

Closing the loophole would not take away anyone's right to buy a gun, except people with criminal records — and felons shouldn't have guns anyway. That's why sensible gun reform is being added to Statehouse Report's list of Palmetto Priorities for 2019.

Ten years ago, we urged lawmakers to develop common priorities – a plan for legislation — to allow them to get real things done to move South Carolina forward. Here's what we called for 10 years ago:

"If you don't have a policy map for where you want to be headed, you will flounder in proposal after proposal. Therefore, today we highlight 11 broad continuing objectives for state legislators to consider and use as a bipartisan guide to creating a better South Carolina."

During the last decade, we've removed two priorities that were accomplished — increasing the state's cigarette tax to $1 a pack to curb smoking and associated health risks, and increasing voter registration to 75 percent.

But there's still a lot of work to be done in a legislature that gets easily sidetracked by pet interests and debates over social policy affecting the few, not the many. Here is an updated and improved list of Palmetto Priorities for 2019:

GUN REFORM (new) Close the "Charleston loophole" in 2019 to extend the waiting period for purchasing a gun to at least five days to allow federal examiners more time for background checks. Consider other reasonable reforms to reduce gun violence in South Carolina.

POVERTY Develop a broad-based anti-poverty agenda by 2020 that includes the jobs, education, and health care components listed below to help lift the almost one in five South Carolinians in poverty into better conditions.

JOBS Approve a Cabinet-level post by 2020 to add and retain 10,000 small business jobs per year. Politicians talk about helping small businesses. This would force them to.

EDUCATION Cut the state's dropout rate in half by 2020.

HEALTH CARE Ensure affordable and accessible health care that optimizes preventive care for every South Carolinian by 2020. Expand Medicaid. More people need to be on health insurance, not less.

ENVIRONMENT Adopt a real state energy policy that requires energy producers to generate 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.

TAXES Overhaul and stabilize the state's antiquated tax structure by 2020 through reforms that broaden the tax base and lower rates. This should include reimplementation of reasonable property taxes and removal of hundreds of millions of dollars of special-interest sales tax exemptions.

CORRECTIONS Cut the prison population by 25 percent by 2020 through creative alternative sentencing programs for non-violent offenders.

ROADS Develop and implement a plan that creatively taps several sources to generate more millions of dollars every year for investment in the state's crumbling system of roads and bridges, and start pigeon-holing money for significant investments in public transit.

POLITICS Have a vigorous two- or multi-party political system of governance, i.e., abandon gerrymandering of election districts.

Andy Brack is editor and publisher of Statehouse Report. Have a comment? Send to: feedback@statehousereport.com

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