South Carolina lawmaker seek to address "mass shootings"

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Violent crime is popping up everywhere, especially the “mass shooting,” variety. I’m using quotation marks because these shootings aren’t what people think of when they hear the term, yet the media has decided to run with it anyway.

South Carolina saw a couple of these so-called mass shootings recently, and lawmakers there are trying to deal with it.

And not by restricting lawful gun ownership.

Two mass shootings in South Carolina, along with other recent shooting incidents, have prompted state lawmakers to consider changing gun laws.

The mass shootings happened in April, one at the Columbiana Centre in Columbia and the other at a lounge in Hampton County, both injuring over 20 people total.

Now, there’s a bipartisan effort to strengthen penalties for illegal gun possession. It’s a rare sight when Republicans and Democrats agree over gun legislation, but the recent violence has united the parties in wanting change.

“Republicans, Democrats, Black, white — everybody understand this is intolerable,” Senator Dick Harpootlian told News19 Wednesday. “Innocent people — a 76-year-old man at the mall shot for being at the food court. I mean, that’s unacceptable,” Harpootlian added, referring to the Columbiana shooting.

The Richland County Democrat has proposed increasing the sentencing for illegal gun possession. Current South Carolina law states that someone found guilty of illegally possessing a gun could be fined up to $1,000 or sentenced to no more than one year in prison.

Harpootlian’s proposal would make the mandatory minimum penalty a one year sentence for the first offense and two years for the second.

Now, do I think this will stop actual mass shootings?

Hardly.

If someone wants to slaughter scores of innocent people, the chances of him actually caring about penalties for illegal gun possession aren’t going to do much.

However, that’s not who this bill is trying to target.

No, this targets “mass shooters,” not mass shooters. What I mean is that this is meant to hammer those who carry a gun around and then wantonly spray rounds to settle some kind of a score, not caring about who they hurt.

Of course, I’m not sure any of those people will be deterred by increased penalties.

Yet they might be caught with an illegal weapon and be sentenced to prison before they can hurt a bunch of innocent people, which is probably the theory at work here.

To be fair, I’m torn on this.

I’m not crazy about armed criminals shooting up areas and hurting a lot of people for obvious reasons. It’s a horrible thing we need to end.

On the flip side, we have the right to keep and bear arms. There shouldn’t be a pile of laws restricting who can and cannot carry a firearm and supporting a measure that suggests carrying a gun without permission is wrong is something I find a bit troubling.

Still, if you’re going to do something, this is far better than many of the alternatives since it doesn’t target law-abiding gun owners, as a general rule. After all, South Carolina is a shall-issue state, so those who can obtain a permit can’t be denied one, so law-abiding citizens generally can get a permit.

I still don’t like it, but I don’t have anything better.