Record guns sales in SC amidst tragedy and background check questions


Guns sales soared undeterred in 2015 despite scrutiny of the federal background check system following the Emanuel AME Church Shooting.

According to the ATF, background checks for firearms jumped 25% following the Mother Emanuel massacre – 20,763 in June to 25,017 in July. More than 32,000 checks were performed in November, but a record 48,614 and December in the wake of the San Bernardino shootings and President Obama’s executive action.

Overall, 2015 saw the second most background checks ever in South Carolina just under 327,000. 2012, the year of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting, ranks as the highest background checked with 335,000.

“I think the citizens feel rightly or wrongly that the federal government is going to be more restrictive on the right to own guns,” said Dr. Claire Wofford, “so they go out and buy guns.” Wofford is a constitutional law scholar at the College of Charleston and says it’s a fear that’s motivating the sales. “If it’s motivated by the sense that if they don’t buy these guns they’re never going to have access to a gun again then that’s an over reaction,” said Wofford, “because the right to own a gun is not going away.”

South Carolina ranks 11th in the United States in the percentage of people owning guns at just over 44%. For perspective, Alaska is first near the 62% of its residents armed.

Gun expert say the spike in business comes from people responding to a ‘perceived threat.’ Eric Brown sells guns at ATP Gun Shop & Range in Summerville and respects the background check system. however, he does not admire the position system can put him in. “if everything is put in the system as it supposed to be – it’s a great system, said Brown, “but it goes back to that muddy water of delay – that’s the one that bothers me.”

The FBI must complete a background check on the purchase of a firearm within 72 hours and brown says there are more delay status then he’d like to see. Brown cited Dylan Roof, the accused Charleston church shooter, as the example of a delay background check. In Roof’s case, the FBI did a background check but the Roof’s background check didn’t go through in 3 business days so the gun shop in Columbia proceeded in selling to Roof.

The FBI says there is no law forcing gun shops to sell a firearm to an individual if a background check is still incomplete after three business days. Ultimately, the sale is at the gun shops discretion.

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