Charleston, S.C. – Next week the U.S. House of Representatives will take the first step to close the so-called “Charleston Loophole” that allowed the perpetrator of the Mother Emanuel massacre to obtain his gun. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn and Congressman Joe Cunningham were joined at a press conference today by political, religious and community leaders in support of the passage of the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019.
The legislation introduced by South Carolina Congressmen Clyburn and Cunningham along with their Republican colleague, Rep. Peter King (NY) will extend the initial background check review period from three to 10 days. Next, after that initial 10 business day period, if a background check is not completed, a purchaser may request an escalated review to spur the FBI to complete its investigation. If the background check is not resolved after the additional 10 business day escalated review, the purchase may proceed.
Under current law, the sale of a firearm can proceed if a background check is not completed within three days. The Enhanced Background Checks Act is designed to ensure that background checks for potential firearms purchases are completed before sales proceed while also protecting the rights of law-abiding gun purchasers to purchase weapons in a timely manner.
“It is important for us to do what we can to prevent people who should not purchase a gun from purchasing one,” said Congressman Clyburn.
“As the years go by it’s become evident that if we change nothing, nothing will change. This is our step to make a change,” Congressman Cunningham said. “This is a common sense and pragmatic solution to allow law enforcement the time they need to do their job.”
Many speakers explained personal connections to gun violence when pledging to support the legislation. “We know that background checks work. And we also know that sometimes they take longer than three days,” said Rabbi Stephanie Alexander from Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim. “The vast majority of Americans want to see this loophole closed. Let’s get this done. So that the next time our children come home from school after practicing a code red to prepare for gun violence, we will be able to look them in the eye knowing we have done something to protect them from gun violence as well.”
The founder of the Safe School Project and high school English teacher, Patrick Martin, explained that “teachers have a front row seat to the fears of students” and said that this bill is “a common-sense measure to help ease the apprehension of students and reassure parents that the polarization that has led to these senseless killings will end.”
The bill is expected to pass the house next week and Congressman Clyburn urged everyone to “talk to as many people as you possibly can. Write as many people as you possibly can. Call as many people as you possibly can. Let’s see what we can do to build support for this on the Senate side.”
Speakers included Reverend Eric Manning, minister at Mother Emanuel AME; Mayor John Tecklenburg, Charleston; Former Mayor Joe Riley, Charleston; Rabbi Stephanie Alexander, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim; Ilene Turbow, Vice President of the Jewish Federation of Charleston; Reverend Nelson Rivers, National Action Network; Patrick Martin, High School English Teacher and Founder of The Safe School Project; Jackie Shelley, Charleston Moms Demand Action; Sydney Clinton, Lowcountry Students for Political Action; Thomas Dixon, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence; Meghan Alexander, Founder of Arm in Arm.
Full Text of H.R. 112 Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019