COLUMBIA, S.C. — A bill filed in South Carolina to lengthen background checks after one failed to prevent the sale of a gun to the man who killed nine people in a Charleston church in 2015 has stalled.
The Senate Judiciary Committee decided not to vote Tuesday on a bill dealing with the so-called “Charleston Loophole” after several senators wanted to alter the proposal.
The bill has three weeks to get through the Senate before a legislative deadline will make it much harder to pass this year.
Sponsors went around the state last year getting feedback so they could craft a proposal that could pass in a state with wide support for gun rights.
Sponsors also want the bill to include a requirement that court clerks send in any information about convictions and restraining orders within five days. Currently, senators said it can take up to a month for that information to get to the background check data used by the State Law Enforcement Division.
“It’s about getting information into the system so the system works,” Sen. Ross Turner said.
The Greenville Republican said he thinks tightening up the conviction reporting requirements is even more important than lengthening the background check.
The bill would extend from three to five days the amount of time federal officials have to check on incomplete information on gun buyers.
Authorities say when Dylann Roof bought the gun used to kill nine people at a Charleston church in 2015, his background check stalled on the details of a drug arrest. When officials could not get any additional information on the arrest, he was legally allowed to buy the gun even though the background check was incomplete.
Sen. Marlon Kimpson, the Democrat whose district includes Emanuel AME church where Roof’s massacre took place, said he would prefer to require all background checks be completed before a gun is sold, but said it would be impossible to get Republican support for that proposal.
“I’m for as many days as it takes. But the political will is not there,” Kimpson said. “This is the work product of a bipartisan process.”
Several other senators want more time to write and propose their own changes to the bill. Some questioned whether the five-day requirement to report convictions and restraining orders were either too long or short.