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Horry Democrats Target Gun Show Loophole

By HCDP Gun Sense Action Committee.

Why is it so easy for criminals to buy guns?

With a goal of making that question no longer relevant, the HCDP’s Gun Sense Action Committee launched the Keep Myrtle Beach Family Friendly campaign. This campaign aims to generate public support requiring gun shows to do background checks on all gun purchases, starting with the gun shows held multiple times each year at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

“Closing this loophole is critical to making our community safer and preserving the Grand Strand’s appeal as a family friendly destination,” said committee chair David Higham.

By creating the Gun Show Loophole, also known as the private sales loophole, the Congress left the door wide open for the gun violence we see today.

Common sense, as well as federal and South Carolina laws, says that certain groups of people should not be able to buy or possess firearms. These groups include indicted or convicted felons, persons convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors, drug abusers, persons involuntarily committed for mental illness, and stalkers and others under court restraining orders.

When these individuals try to buy a gun from a licensed firearms dealer, they are stopped by a phone call to the FBI’s instant background check system. Most checks are determined within minutes.

Background Checks Work

While usually fast and efficient, this background check system has been key in stopping lethal weapon sales to many millions of people who pose a danger to themselves or to the community. In its twenty-five years of operation, the background check system, together with the licensed firearm dealers who use it, have blocked more than three million prohibited gun purchases while processing over 278 million purchase requests.

While the Brady Law and the background check system have stopped many dangerous people from buying guns, there remains a loophole wide enough for many other dangerous people to easily pass through.

Private dealers, people who are not licensed but sell firearms anyway, are not required to conduct background checks on their buyers. Even licensed dealers, who must do background checks, can skirt this requirement by selling firearms from their “private collection.” Convicted felons and others with violent or troubled pasts, persons who have no rights to buy guns, seek out these private dealers to obtain their guns free of any worry that their violent past will be discovered.

It’s estimated that one-quarter of all dealers at the 5,000 or more gun shows held each year across the country are private, unlicensed sellers. Most gun shows are held in the 31 states, like South Carolina, which have done nothing to close the Gun Show Loophole. So, these private dealers are free to sell to anyone–no questions asked.

Guns sold without background checks number in the millions and comprise about 20 percent of all gun purchases across the country.

A Visit to the Gun Show

Members of the Gun Sense Action Committee visited the Myrtle Beach Convention Center gun show on January 13. We posed as interested buyers and quickly found several private dealers in each aisle we walked down who were willing to make a sale–no background check required.

Henry Garbelman, a gun owner, committee member, and visitor to the Gun Show, was amazed at the range of weapons and shooting paraphernalia on sale.

“Filling hundreds of tables were not only firearms of all types, but also thousands of rounds of ammunition, smoke grenades, silencers and body armor,” he said. “One could arm themselves to the teeth, walk out of the Convention Center without any background checks being done on the firearms bought and wreak havoc on our community, possibly our schools. The lack of background checks on these private sales could easily lead to tragic shootings, loss of life, and forever diminish the Grand Strand’s appeal as a vacation destination.”

Committee’s Campaign Takes Shape

Verlene DeWitt, HCDP 2nd Vice Chair, is a member of the committee and supporter of the Keep Myrtle Beach Family Friendly campaign.

“The Gun Sense Committee is proud of its affiliation with Horry Democrats, but in this campaign the message is the key, not party affiliation. We will be talking with everyone, Democrats, Republicans and people who don’t think about politics, about this small change that is needed that can save lives.”

Dr. Bruce Fischer and Linda Bianca also helped draft the campaign’s initial plans. At the committee’s gun show rally in November, Fischer pointed out that “America has the highest gun violence rate in the world. Something must be done to keep guns out of the hands of these criminals.”

After the committee’s drafting session, Bianca came away optimistic about what she heard.

“The committee is genuinely interested in listening to all good ideas on how to enhance the safety of our community. Through this campaign, Horry County has a chance to be a leader in requiring background checks on all gun purchases,” she said.

Higham knows that waging this campaign won’t be easy, but believes it has a winning message. “The 19 states that have closed the Gun Show Loophole and instituted other common-sense gun reforms, have less gun violence than the rest of the country,” he explained.

Higham said the Gun Sense Committee will continue to lobby the Statehouse and Congress to close this loophole. However, he added, “We can’t wait for others to act. This campaign is about having an impact locally, right now. We must convince the Convention Center, and other venues hosting gun shows, that mandating background checks on all gun purchases is in their own best interests.”

Join the Campaign

Higham is asking all Horry Democrats to join the campaign. A big help would be for people to come forward with the names of groups they think would be receptive to the Keep Myrtle Beach Family Friendly message.

“We plan to cast a wide net of the people we will be talking to, including civic groups, businesses, churches, schools, law enforcement and neighborhood associations,” he said. “To do that effectively we need introductions to the gatekeepers of each group. Most everyone knows someone who is part of an organization that might welcome our message and invite us in to make a presentation. If people can give us the names of those contacts, that would be invaluable,” Higham said.

For more information, please reach out to David at dhigham32@gmail.com or phone 732-718-8514.

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