Sen. Graham and Rep. Sanford answer the reader survey on gun violence solutions

Editor’s Note: This week we provide our readers with responses from U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham’s office and from U.S. Congressman Mark Sanford to The Daniel Island News reader survey on gun violence solutions. We did not get a response from Senator Tim Scott’s office prior to publication. Also in this issue, we provide answers from Berkeley County officials (see page 4). In last week’s edition, we published responses from our state congressional leaders.

1. Do you support legislation that would ban the ownership of assault weapons like the one used in the Florida school shooting?

Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (LG) office: NO, Senator Graham has made clear that he is focused on mental health issues, not banning certain types of guns.

Mark Sanford (MS): NO...but this is not to say that I think everyone should have access to them.

2. Do you support legislation that would provide for arming classroom teachers? YES or NO

LG’s office: Yes.

MS: No. This shouldn’t be decided in Washington, and to be clear, this option already exists in about 20 states. Whether or not teachers should be armed is a local school board decision, driven by a host of local considerations. Texas, for instance, has an innovative “school marshal” program, and it fits with what I’ve read about in a variety of very different local approaches. Most teachers I’ve talked with on this front have zero interest in being confronted with the heart-wrenchingly tough question of whether or not to shoot one of their students. Again, what may work in a rural Wyoming or Texas school will not fit in an urban New York school.

3. Do you support legislation that would prohibit the sale of guns to people with a history of mental illness?

LG’s office: Yes.

MS: Yes. Again, to be clear, clinical diagnosis on this front already prohibits the purchase of a gun based on current federal law.

4. Do you support any limitation on gun ownership? YES or NO

LG’s office: Yes. Felons can’t own guns. You can’t own a fully automatic weapon (machine gun) without going through a long and thorough federal background check. Others with severe mental illness – like Alice Boland who tried to shoot the principal at Ashley Hall School – should not have access to firearms. There are limits on the Second Amendment.

MS: Yes. There are a number of current federal limitations, all of which I support. One of the problems here has been that there has been little prosecution of those who have broken current law on this front. To be explicit and to give an example, it’s illegal to purchase a gun for a variety of reasons, yet in 2010, there were more than 80,000 denials but only 44 federal prosecutions. Prosecuting more of the laws already on the books seems a reasonable place to start. I believe that the events of Parkland will serve as something of an inflection point with regard to gun crimes in America. Movement seems to be fast. I have come out against things like bump stocks. I came out for eliminating the Charleston Loophole. I believe we should close the so-called “gun show loophole” long as it doesn’t prohibit my ability to give one of my sons a shotgun that my dad gave me.

So, to be clear, I’m a supporter of the Second Amendment, which I believe represents the teeth behind every other right we hold as Americans. But, an opinion written by the late-Justice Scalia, one of the most conservative justices on the Supreme Court, the Court recognized that the Second Amendment is not a blanket right. In the 2008 Heller case, Scalia wrote “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

I believe the Second Amendment is a constitutional right, but it’s not an infinite right. For instance, anyone ever convicted of a felony, a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence or is ruled mentally defective, these are just three of the nine categories of individuals prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm of any kind. Also included in this is any person who is a fugitive from justice; who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance; who is an illegal alien; who has been dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces; who has renounced his or her United States citizenship; or who is subject to a court order restraining the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or their child.

5. Do you think gun violence in schools and other public spaces can be prevented? If so, how?

LG’s office: (Did not answer).

MS: I think we clearly need to do more. We can diminish it, but whether or not it can be completely eliminated remains an open question. What’s clear is that whether it was the shooting at Mother Emanuel AME or Sutherland Baptist in Texas or Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida -- all of the perpetrators should not have been able to purchase and possess firearms. A starting point lies in fixing and closing the loopholes that exist in the broader background check process.

Last December, the House of Representatives passed a measure called the Fix NICS Act, which incentivizes agencies to report information more precisely and more promptly to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. I voted for it, and it was paired with the concealed carry reciprocity act legislation. It was believed that the concealed carry portion would be stripped out in the Senate and the legislation would advance, but this has not happened and the legislation has stalled. In the wake of Parkland, I believe this legislation will move forward and close some of the loopholes in the background check process.

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