With hope in Democrat-led Congress, senator reintroduces gun-buying loophole bill

COLUMBIA, S.C. — This time facing a House and Senate held by Democrats, South Carolina’s Jim Clyburn will try again to get a measure passed that would require a completed background check before buying a gun.

The U.S. House passed a similar measure to close the so-called “Charleston loophole” in 2019, only for it to stall in the Republican-controlled Senate shortly after. But with two chambers controlled by Democrats and President Joe Biden in the White House, the third-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives could find a path to success much easier this time.

House Majority Whip Clyburn’s proposal — called the Enhanced Background Checks Act — would extend the time frame law enforcement has to complete a background check before a gun can be purchased from three to 10 days. But if a review is not completed in 10 days, the buyer could request a faster review to start an FBI investigation.

Under current law, a seller can move forward with a gun sale if the background check hasn’t been completed within the three day time frame, known as a “default proceeds” sale, what many refer to as the “Charleston loophole.”

Clyburn’s bill allows the sale to process should the faster review not get done within the 10 days.

With 60 co-sponsors, the legislation is expected to get a vote in the full House next week, Clyburn’s office said.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, plans to file a companion measure in his chamber.

“Enacting common-sense gun control measures is a priority for President Biden and this Democratic Congress, and this legislation is a good first step,” Clyburn said in a statement. “A large majority of Americans, including gun owners, support universal background checks. This legislation is needed to keep weapons out of the hands of those who should not have them and save lives.”

Nearly six years after the mass shooting of nine Black churchgoers, that included a state senator, at Charleston’s historic “Mother” Emanuel AME Church, Democrats have tried and failed to pass more restrictive gun measures. Republicans have been unwillingly to back more restrictive national gun laws that they say would infringe on their Second Amendment rights.

Attempts to pass similar measures in the South Carolina State House also have failed to gain traction.

In June 2015, self-professed white supremacist Dylann Roof bought a gun he used to kill nine Black parishioners weeks before the killing. Normally subject to a three-day FBI waiting period for a background check to be completed, those weeks came and went before authorities determined Roof should have been ineligible to buy a weapon. Roof had a record of illegal drug possession, but a mix-up in the records and miscommunication did not surface the charge within the three-day period, and Roof was able to buy the gun.

Extending the background check time frame from three to 10 days with the additional request for review option would give authorities enough time to ensure people like Roof do not get their hands on weapons, supporters say.