Sumter County's newest state legislator said action must be taken in light of last week's deadly mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
State Rep. Wendy Brawley, D-70, who represents southern and western Sumter County and southern …
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State Rep. Wendy Brawley, D-70, who represents southern and western Sumter County and southern Richland County, introduced a bill on Wednesday that would ban assault weapons and devices that can turn a semi-automatic gun into a fully automatic weapon. H. 4975 would prohibit the sale or possession of all semi-automatic centerfire rifles with a detachable magazine with a capacity of 21 or more rounds, all semi-automatic shotguns with a folding stock or a magazine capacity of more than six rounds, any firearm that has been modified to operate as an assault weapon and any part of a combination or parts designed to convert a firearm into an assault weapon.
"This, to me, is common-sense legislation to remove some of these military-style assault weapons and prevent them from being sold in our state," said the first-year legislator who was elected in June 2017 after a special election to fulfill the unexpired term of the late Joseph Neal. "The federal government can't seem to figure out how to do this."
On Wednesday, Feb. 14, a 19-year-old former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School came onto the campus and opened fire, killing 17 people. He used weapons, including an AR-15 and other long guns, he legally purchased after passing a background check.
"There seems to be no place safe from assault weapons. Whether you are in a church, whether you are in a school, whether you are in a movie theater, assault weapons have visited us in all of those places," Brawley said at a news conference Thursday in the state House lobby in Columbia.
The U.S. Congress has long grappled with a solution to passing gun laws after repeated mass shootings involving AR-15s.
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona say they will introduce a bill to raise the minimum age required to purchase rifles from gun dealers from 18 to 21, the same age required to purchase a handgun, according to The Associated Press.
President Donald Trump on Thursday, the AP reported, endorsed a higher minimum age for buying certain rifles and tighter background checks, saying "there's nothing more important than protecting our children."
Trump said he spoke Wednesday night with many members of Congress and "they're into background checks," the AP reported.
Early Thursday, Trump tweeted his strongest stance on gun control one day after an emotional White House session where students and parents poured out wrenching tales of lost lives and pleaded for action.
Trump said on Twitter, "I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks with an emphasis on Mental Health. Raise age to 21 and end sale of Bump Stocks!" The president did not immediately offer more details.
Trump's focus on gun violence came as leaders of the National Rifle Association offered a vigorous defense of gun rights during the Conservative Political Action Conference, urging enhanced - and armed - security at schools. An armed Broward County sheriff's deputy, the regular school resource officer, was on the campus at the time of the shooting in Florida.
The NRA is reported by the AP as saying on Wednesday that any legislation aimed at raising the age requirement for rifle and shotgun purchases would deprive young Americans their constitutional right to self-protection.
"We need serious proposals to prevent violent criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from acquiring firearms," NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said in the report, but also said raising the age requirement from 18 to 21 would punish "law-abiding citizens for the evil acts of criminals."
Back in South Carolina, Brawley has garnered the co-sponsorships, as of Thursday afternoon, of state Reps. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg; John Richard King, D-Rock Hill; Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston; Jerry Govan Jr., D-Orangeburg; Rosalyn Henderson-Myers, D-Spartanburg; Chandra Dillard, D-Greenville; and Joe McEachern, D-Columbia.
Brawley said Gilliard and Cobb-Hunter have introduced similar bills in past years but that they have "languished in committee." H. 3183 was introduced in December 2016 and remains in the Committee on Judiciary.
Brawley, who lives in Richland County, said she thinks she is in a position to get the bill through because, as a new delegation member, she has no allegiances or partisan ties.
"That's not to be disparaging against my colleagues," she told The Sumter Item. "There are things my Republican colleagues have introduced I have supported."
Language in her bill makes exceptions for military and law enforcement personnel, continuing to allow those protector groups to have and use assault weapons.
"They really are designed for use in war. The military should be equipped with all these things. We have to have our law enforcement hopefully with weaponry that's a step above what's available to most common citizens," Brawley said.
The bill also does not address age requirements or mental status for purchasers.
"Those things are important," she said, "but at the end of the day, it's the ability to kill large numbers of people in a short amount of time."
After one man opened fire at a country music concert in Las Vegas in October 2017, killing 58 people and injuring 851, South Carolina's capital city in December approved a ban on bump stocks, which is a device that, when attached to a semi-automatic gun, allows it to shoot as rapidly as a fully automatic.
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said at the time he thinks the city is the first to ban the device.
Brawley's bill would do the same.
The AP reported at the time there are statewide bans on bump stocks in Massachusetts and California.
"Change begins with us. If we in the Legislature are not willing to look at this bill, see the possibilities it has to save lives, then what is wrong with us? What is wrong with us? You sent us here to represent you," Brawley said at the news conference. "You sent us here to help pass laws to protect you, and we have the courage to do it."
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