CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Leaders and activists in the Lowcountry are reacting to the deadly mass shooting in Buffalo, NY that left 10 people dead.
According to police, a gunman shot 13 people in a supermarket on Saturday. Eleven of the victims were black. Local authorities called the incident a racially motivated hate crime.
South Carolina Representative Wendell Gilliard said the shooting is a reminder of why he is working to pass hate crime legislation in the state. South Carolina and Wyoming are the only two states that do not have a hate crimes law.
Gilliard tried to change that when he helped pen the Clementa C. Pinckney Hate Crimes Act, however, the Senate failed to pass it before the end of the regular legislative session last week.
The bill would enhance penalties for someone who commits a hate crime.
“If we did have a hate crime law, we would have a chance to expedite the cases because when you look historically at the federal government, they have a backlog of hate crime cases,” explained Gilliard.
He also said the bill would allow South Carolina to keep records of hate crimes. According to Gilliard, research shows more people are willing to come forward and report hate crimes when there is a law in place.
Arthur Lawrence, a community activist, and longtime member of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston is hoping to see the bill passed.
Lawrence said he was at the church the night before a gunman opened fire, killing nine people during a bible study in 2015. June will mark seven years since the shooting.
“That would give everyone another tool in the toolbox to charge and prosecute all these individuals committing these crimes,” said Lawrence.
Gilliard said plans to pre-file the bill on the first day of the next legislative session. News 2 reached out to the senators who opposed the bill, they were not available.