By Barney Blakeney
Since the February 14 murder of 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, federal and state legislators to little avail have struggled to come up with legislation to reduce the potential for mass shootings on campuses. Several South Carolina legislators offered some thoughts.
Walterboro Sen. Margie Bright Matthews offered numerous ideas ranging from banning assault weapons, increasing the waiting period before a gun can be bought and increasing the age required purchasing guns to implementing better background checks. North Charleston Rep. Marvin Pendarvis has introduced legislation that would employ mental health evaluations and metal detectors.
At the federal level Cong. James Clyburn in response to proposals to arm teachers said, “Guns have no place in our schools, and anyone who says otherwise is being influenced to ignore their common sense. I’m standing up to oppose any weapon in any school.” But as our community searches for answers to a distressing phenomenon, they each agree there are no immediate solutions.
In a March 5 statement Clyburn challenged proposals to arm teachers. He said, “Before I was an elected official, I was a high school World History teacher in Charleston. Serving in a classroom was an extremely fulfilling experience. I taught so many bright young students who found success by working hard and following their dreams. There were times I wished we had additional textbooks or some extra supplies, but one thing I never wished for as a teacher was a weapon. Bringing dangerous and lethal weapons into our classrooms is not the answer to ending this siege of violence.”
Pendarvis said, “We need to finally pass common sense gun legislation.” He’s introduced legislation that includes banning assault weapons, placing school resource officers in every school and incorporating mental health evaluations and metal detectors. Additionally he proposes mandated active shooter drills in all public schools and curriculum and training for the drills.
But he cautions, “My bill will not reduce gun violence. It’s not intended to. Only gun regulation and securing our schools will do that. I introduced the legislation so that we are prepared in the event these unfortunate events meet us at our schools’ doorsteps. We must ensure that our students, faculty, and staff are prepared in the event all else fails. My bill is aimed to prepare us in the event all else fails and we are met with this at our doorstep.”
Bright Matthews thinks a ton of legislation is necessary to better insure safety on school campuses. She thinks initiatives that help identify potentially threatening individuals is as important as reducing their ability to carry out their threats. But realistically, she thinks more will die before effective legislation is passed.
“With all the incidents of gun violence we’ve seen, South Carolina still proposes more bills that give more access to guns than restrictions,” she said. She’s optimistic however. “We can’t legislate our way out of everything,” she said, “but maybe we’re beginning to take some baby steps.”