It’s Not Really About Guns At All

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In South Carolina, we trust our citizens to purchase, own, and use firearms responsibly. Our state does not require a state permit for purchase of a rifle, shotgun, or handgun. 

Our state is ninth-worst for citizens killed by guns (link) at 22 deaths per 1,000 residents. We lost 1,131 people in 2020 with a disproportionate number of gun-related homicides in our African American population, 35.4 per 1,000 residents. Homicides by firearm went up 86% in South Carolina between 2010 and 2019; suicides by firearm rose 19% in that same period of time (link). 

Gun ownership, gun control, gun rights, gun violence … it’s never just about “guns.” 

It’s about politics. It’s about safety. It’s about feeling helpless and wanting to feel protected. It’s about who has the guns, who uses them, and who they’re used upon. 

A full 53% of gun-related deaths in our state were suicide. It’s never just about guns.

Like so many other issues, national discussions on firearms lean toward legislation as the solution. Legislating is what politicians do and they keep promising to fix this problem for us. (Hint: they can’t.) Wait periods, permits, and background checks address the problem of firearms purchase not firearms possession or usage. Laws fail to identify mental instability or malicious intent. Product bans address the problem of future inventory, but not existing inventory. 

Extreme Risk Protection Orders (also known as “Red Flag Laws”) enable a judge to direct law enforcement to investigate potentially violent individuals and remove firearms from their possession if they are deemed a risk to themselves or others. Efficacy of red flag laws rely on law enforcement intervening in a timely manner and citizens reporting on one another as threats. Such laws can also be abused and used maliciously against non-violent people who aren’t actually a threat, making them victims of state intervention, creating a potentially dangerous interaction with law enforcement. 

Firearms are a complicated issue, one that cannot be distilled to two minute soundbites or solved by gun control laws. It is reckless to consider legislation without taking into account the root causes of gun violence.

South Carolina’s poorest counties have the highest per capita firearms deaths in the state; Allendale’s rate is nearly 40 deaths per 1,000 residents (source). Poverty and despair are the root causes of gun violence. Hopelessness, lack of opportunity, lack of education, and black markets for drugs and sex fuel violence.

Gun control has very little impact on the root causes of gun violence. The SCLP proposes focusing on improving financial and mental health circumstances in our vulnerable populations:

  • End occupational licensing. People need to earn a living.
  • End the war on drugs. Legalize sex work. Bring shadow markets into legitimate exchanges between buyers and sellers.
  • Decriminalize cannabis and psilocybin which have the ability to relieve pain and help treat PTSD and depression.
  • Invest in mental health resources. Offer help to those who need it and make it easy to ask for and receive care.

Care. That’s what it’s about. Not the false promise of safety, but recognition that gun violence and gun deaths are symptoms of a social sickness. Care that your fellow citizens are a danger to themselves and others. Care that they feel desperate, lonely, or angry and violent. Care that they reach for firearms because they can’t see any other means of protecting themselves, resolving disputes, or ending their pain. Care that they are humans with the right to dignity and justice.

We support responsible gun ownership. Citizens who attend safety classes, maintain their skills with practice, and keep their firearms out of reach of children demonstrate a willingness to be responsible gun owners. 

We support community-funded programs to help people find acceptance and hope. We support firearms safety education. The SCLP supports safety officers in public spaces like schools and highways. Firearms manufacturers and dealers have the ability to regulate their own industry through blockchain. We support proactive steps taken by industry to eliminate underground markets.

The state cannot solve this issue. It has only one capability: restriction. 

Background checks, red flag laws, state intervention are only the false promises of security. The most restrictive firearms law states (California, New York) have low homicides, but so do some of the most permissive states (Idaho, Utah) (source). And the most permissive states with high firearms-related deaths (Mississippi, Missouri) also have high poverty rates while states with less than 10% poverty rates also have low firearms-related death rates (Washington, Minnesota). Meanwhile, states with medium-to-permissive firearms laws (West Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky) all have moderate firearms-related death rates and poverty rates above 12% (source). Restriction is not meaningful action. It’s political theater. 

Restriction isn’t even control. Less than 2% of those imprisoned for violent crimes involving firearms obtained those firearms through legal means (source). More than half obtained their firearm off the street or from an underground market. The state has only one capability: restriction. Laws only apply to law-abiding citizens.

Communities have multiple capabilities: education, cooperation, compassion, care. The SCLP supports a multi-faceted, citizen-driven approach that addresses root causes, demonstrates compassion and a willingness to actually solve violence in our state. 

Liberty requires accountability. We cannot be all-or-nothing on a complex issue like firearms. We must care about one another and be willing to work together. Address root causes of violence, work for safe, responsible firearms ownership, and replace political rhetoric with meaningful action.

Ready to get involved? Click here to find the next meeting for your local SCLP group.

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