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  • Writer's pictureDavid M. Rubin

Scott, Mace, and the “Charleston Loophole"

The “thoughts and prayers” for gun victims just keep coming from cynical Republicans as the deadly toll in mass shootings mounts.

Through late May, the year 2021 has already produced 232 mass shooting events, defined by The Gun Violence Archive as events in which four or more persons other than the shooter are victims. This was capped on May 26 by the shooting at the light rail yard in San Jose, California, where nine were killed.

Predictably, that event quickly faded from public discussion. As a nation we have progressed through all possible stages of emotion in response to mass gun violence: shock; outrage; anger (at the political gridlock); bitterness; numbness; and resignation.

Polls show overwhelming public support for laws requiring much more rigorous background checks for potential gun owners and limitations on the kinds of guns in circulation. Yet political leaders, mostly Republicans, ignore the public’s desires.

If proof were needed, consider the behavior of Senator Tim Scott and Representative Nancy Mace and their response to closing the infamous “Charleston Loophole.”

This is the absurd requirement that the FBI complete a background check within three days before a purchaser can take possession of a gun. The FBI did not complete a background check into Dylan Roof within this ludicrously short time period. They failed to discover Roof’s history of illegal drug possession. He should not have been permitted to purchase a gun.

But he did purchase a gun, and that led to the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston. Thus was born “The Charleston Loophole.”

One would think that Scott and Mace have a particular interest in addressing this problem. After all, the church sits in Mace’s Congressional District, and Scott was a friend of one of the victims.

But one would be wrong.

Both Mace and Scott have mastered the Republican playbook: offer thoughts and prayers, talk about finding solutions, blame mental health problems, but above all vote “No” on any substantive gun control measure.

Last March Democratic Representative Jim Clyburn engineered passage of H.R. 1446, which closes the Charleston Loophole. It extends the waiting period for a background check from three to ten days, giving the FBI more time to respond. Nancy Mace voted against it. For her, an additional seven days is too long a wait to buy a gun.

This is the same Mace who supports a concealed carry reciprocity bill, meaning that her constituents in South Carolina could carry their weapons into other states where concealed carry is not legal. While Mace will tell you she is for “states’ rights,” she is not when it comes to guns. She wants one uniform federal policy on guns. As she said in a campaign statement in 2013, “I believe the debate over gun rights and gun control ended with the Second Amendment.” How simple the world is for her.

Over in the Senate Tim Scott can hide behind Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell said, “I am certainly open to discussion” of Clyburn’s Charleston Loophole bill, but he opposes it. That means the loophole likely won’t be closed and Scott may never even have to vote on it.

But we know how he would vote anyway. In running for the House in 2010, Scott said the right to bear arms is a “fundamental freedom and a cornerstone of our democracy.” He, along with Mace, wants concealed-carry to be nationwide. He is opposed to federal authorities tracking purchases by individuals of multiple rifles and shotguns. He is against limiting the size of high-capacity magazines with more than 10 rounds of ammunition. He favors loosening restrictions on interstate gun purchases.

Scott’s “solution” to gun violence in schools is exemplified by a toothless bill he co-sponsored with a dozen other Republican Senators in 2018. It’s called the “School Safety and Mental Health Services Improvement Act.” It would provide funds to turn schools into bunkers with security cameras, alarms and metal detectors. But it would NOT touch the guns themselves. It would also provide funds to hire more school counselors to treat mental health problems associated with gun violence.

Scott, who claims to be a fiscal conservative, loves to throw federal money at problems. He is doing the same thing right now in his efforts to broker a deal with Democrats on police reform in reaction to the murder of George Floyd and other Black victims of police violence. Scott would give police departments more money for training, but he won’t make police officers more accountable by modifying their qualified immunity from prosecution if they assault or murder citizens outside police protocols.

The Scott method is to sound reasonable, say soothing words about having conversation, pretend to do something about a problem, but don’t actually do anything serious to fix it. He was up to his usual tricks on CBS’s “Face the Nation” in 2018 when he filibustered host Nancy Cordes on how to respond to the Parkland School shooting. He blamed faulty background checks but refused to commit to changing the system to make them effective.

Our problem with gun violence lies squarely outside the offices of legislators like Mace and Scott. We in Dorchester County are unfortunate enough to have two of the worst offenders. Until they are voted out and replaced by political leaders truly committed to solving this gun epidemic, nothing will change.

Don’t be surprised if the Republicans’ next “solution” will be to change the definition of a “mass shooting” incident. They will require ten victims, not four, to qualify. That will reduce the appalling total of mass shootings. Let’s call it The Mace-Scott Solution to gun violence.

* * * *

With this blog post we introduce The November 8, 2022 File. It will be a regular feature to remind readers of the many errors in judgment and dangerous positions taken by Republicans seeking the votes of Dorchester County voters.This is Entry #1:

Tim Scott and Nancy Mace voted against establishing a commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection; Mace opposed extra funding for the Capitol police; and Mace voted against a House bill opposing the increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans.

Blogger David M. Rubin is the former Dean of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. He is a former columnist for the Syracuse Post-Standard and an expert on First Amendment law (speech and press). He lives in Summerville.

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