SC state representative proposes legislation to hold gun owners more accountable when children access guns
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - One elected leader say laws need to be changed to hold parents and gun owners more accountable when children gain access to guns.
This comes following several incidents in the last year where children under 10 have gotten a hold of guns, in some cases injuring themselves or others.
Rep. Jermaine Johnson, D-Richland, said he believes one solution is creating harsher penalties for negligence that results in children getting access to guns.
“We need to make sure that we’re holding parents accountable, we’re holding people accountable because we’re seeing way too many accidents and things that are going on right now, seeing way too many young people in possession of these guns at these schools,” Johnson said.
The latest incident happened on Wednesday at a Rush’s drive thru on Harbison Boulevard. According to the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, deputies say a pregnant mother was accidentally shot by her son.
LCSD spokesman Captain Adam Myrick said the mother is expected to make a full recovery.
When a man arrived at the scene, he said that the couple did not know there was a gun in the car, according to the incident report. He told deputies that the incident happened in the car that he normally drives, and said that all his friends carry guns, “some legally some illegally.” The man also said that he did not know who the gun owner is.
LCSD is still investigating to determine whether charges could be filed against the gun owner.
In three similar incidents in Richland County, no charges have been filed yet. However, RCSD said that these investigations are ongoing and parents and or gun owners may still be held criminally responsible.
“The incidents are investigated fully and if investigators believe there may be enough probable cause to arrest someone in cases such as these, they consult the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s Office,” RCSD said in a statement.
This includes one case in October of last year, when a 3-year-old shot herself at a home on Blue Ridge Terrace in Columbia, and later died.
On Memorial Day, Richland County deputies said that a 2-year-old boy was shot in the 100 block of Willow Oak Drive in Columbia.
RCSD has said that both of these shootings are believed to be accidental.
In the third incident, a 7-year-old student at Sandlapper Elementary School in Columbia took a loaded gun to school back on May 26.
“Everybody should be up in arms whenever there’s a gun found on a school campus because these are our young people,” Johnson said. “We say that young people are our future. But it’s time for us to really believe and act like young people are our future and really put the resources behind them.”
Johnson has proposed legislation that would create criminal charges for negligent storage of a gun that’s within reach or easy access to a child under the age of 18.
“I think we need to prioritize our young people over prioritizing the hobby of building an arsenal,” Johnson said.
The legislation would also require the owner of the gun to report the loss or theft of each such weapon within twenty-four hours.
Several other states have enacted similar negligent storage laws. When asked about some of these recent incidents, Johnson said there is “insurmountable evidence” as to why one should be enacted in South Carolina.
“Most Americans want people to be responsible gun owners,” he said. “We’re not not about taking your guns away, we’re not about getting rid of the second amendment. We believe in that. But we want you to be responsible because people’s lives are being lost every single day when we’re irresponsible.”
The negligent storage legislation that Johnson sponsored stalled in the Judiciary Committee this session.
He faces incumbent Wendy Brawley, D-Richland, in a primary election on Tuesday.
WIS asked Johnson about the bill’s future prospects if he were to lose bid for re-election.
“With all the ground work and all the traction that I’ve made to get these bills moving forward, it’s very nerve-racking to know that if I’m not in the House of Representatives coming up, that some of these things could actually die,” he said.
If Johnson were to keep his house seat, he said he plans to re-file the bill next session. Through conversations elected officials on both sides of the aisle, the National Rifle Association and gun enthusiast organizations, he said he’s hopeful that the bill could gain more traction in the future.
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