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McMaster, Cunningham release statements after gunfire outside youth baseball game

Blake Ferguson recorded video of his child's youth baseball game in North Charleston when gunfire rang out, sending the children running for cover.
Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 2:47 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina’s governor and one of his opponents talked about gun measures Tuesday, a day after shots were fired outside a North Charleston youth baseball game in North Charleston.

South Carolina Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Cunningham said it is time for “tough conversations” about reducing gun violence. Cunningham, who represented the state’s First Congressional District for a single term before losing re-election to Nancy Mace, released a statement a day after gunfire erupted at Pepperhill Park in North Charleston as a youth baseball game was taking place.

The incident was captured on video by a father whose child was one of the players in the game. Blake Ferguson said the gunfire happened in the parking lot of the park and said several parents’ vehicles had been struck by bullets.

Cunningham’s statement read:

The video of last night’s shooting was absolutely chilling. As a parent, I refuse to allow this to be the world my son grows up in. It’s time for our leaders to have tough conversations about how we can reduce gun violence. But we can’t simply talk—we must back up those conversations with action.

Our current governor refuses to do either. Instead of implementing common-sense reforms that are nearly universally supported, South Carolina’s leaders instead focus on bullshit culture wars and nonexistent threats, all while our children and their parents live in fear of gun violence at something as innocent as a Dixie Youth baseball game.

I will not allow this to be the new normal in South Carolina. A year ago, I released my plan to reduce gun violence in our state. Additionally, as governor, I will fund our law enforcement, increase community policing programs, and get illegal guns off the street. We can no longer allow political extremists to stand in the way of protecting our kids.

But Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, who is running for his second full term as governor, posted on Twitter that he would sign into law any measures passed by the General Assembly to toughen gun laws.

“Law enforcement needs help keeping illegal, stolen guns out of the hands of juveniles and criminals. I stand with Sen. Harpootlian and members of the Senate who are proposing no bond and mandatory minimum sentences in circuit court for illegal gun possession,” McMaster said on Twitter Tuesday. “Send me these reforms and I will sign them into law.”

Last week, Sen. Dick Harpootlian (D-Richland) called for toughened-up penalties for people who illegally carry guns. Harpootlian said he doesn’t want to make illegal anything that is currently legal. Instead, he wants to stiffen up the consequences for something that’s already unlawful here in South Carolina.

People convicted of illegally carrying a gun currently face up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Harpootlian says that is not enough.

“I was a deputy solicitor and solicitor for 12 years. I’ve prosecuted my share of cases, and I’ve defended my share of cases,” he said. “This course of conduct is so epidemic that it is challenging and destroying the fabric of our society.”

Harpootlian’s calling for increased felony penalties, to a minimum one-year mandatory sentence and a maximum of five years, for anyone unlawfully carrying a pistol.

His appeal came days after two mass shootings in South Carolina – and a few weeks after one 12-year-old shot and killed another at a Greenville middle school.

North Charleston leaders, meanwhile, announced a $10,000 reward for information in the incident that leads to the arrest of those responsible for the incident.

“We will not tolerate this behavior and we will not allow this behavior to carry forward,” Summey said.

A police report released Tuesday states witnesses told responding officers that a “large group” of teenagers pulled into the parking lot and began fistfighting. Witnesses then told officers the teenagers began shooting at each other before they fled in their vehicles where it appeared shots were fired from one vehicle towards another, the report states.

Summey stressed the importance of taking guns off the streets saying he recognized the increase in gun violence across the country.

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