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Congressmen discuss efforts to close 'Charleston loophole' during virtual town hall

A bill to close the "Charleston loophole," HR 1112, has passed the US House of Representatives, but sits stagnant in the US Senate.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — It has been five years since the horrific murder of nine members of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

Dylann Roof, who was convicted of murder and is now on death row, was able to get the gun he used in the crime thanks to a loophole in the background check system. 

The loophole is now referred to as the "Charleston loophole."

Most legislation is aimed at increasing the time needed for background checks in gun sales.

On Wednesday afternoon, 6th district Congressman Jim Clyburn, 1st district Congressman Joe Cunningham, Charleston Representative Marvin Pendarvis and Reverend Eric Manning of Mother Emanuel AME, joined in on a virtual town hall to discuss legislation that would close the "Charleston loophole."

RELATED: 5 years later: Remembering the Emanuel 9

"What have we done to move our society forward to say that we have learned from the sins of our past?" asks Rep. Pendarvis, D-Charleston. "I would submit to you today that we have done little to nothing to do that...we've learned and now we are going to take action." 

A bill to close the "Charleston loophole," HR 1112, has passed the US House of Representatives, but sits stagnant in the U.S. Senate.

A bill that will create penalties for hate crimes in South Carolina, HB 3063 has also passed in the SC House of Representatives, but sits stagnant in the SC Senate. 

"What the Senate is doing has held up the piece of legislation that is clear," says Rep. Clyburn. "There's four to six percent who will fall into this loophole."

"COVID-19 has made the Charleston loophole even deadlier by causing a surge in gun sales that has put as strain on the background check system and increase the risk that individuals like Dylann Roof will slip through the cracks," says Rep. Cunningham.

Reverend Manning says if we can wait to get a drivers license, we can wait on a background check for a firearm. 

"This is not to take away anyone's rights, it's making sure that we are protecting the least of these."

"We can pass this legislation to close the "Charleston loophole," it's not the same thing as what we are doing today in dealing with policing, but if we create the right climate and people see in our actions and reactions that we generally are about solving problems, about making headway instead of headlines, about moving our country peacefully to a more perfect union," says Rep. Clyburn.