COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – People across the country are still trying to wrap their heads around the shootings in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH and how to stop another mass shooting.
On Wednesday in Columbia, several organizations joined forces to further conversations about gun violence and domestic terrorism.
The round table discussion addressed white supremacy, gun violence and mass shootings and what the state can do to track expected terrorist groups and individuals who want to cause harm.
The community room at the General Magistrate Court filled up Wednesday morning with members of the community anxious to hear how the state can prevent another mass shooting.
Elder James Johnson, the SC Coordinator for the National Action Network, helped organize the discussion. The news of yet another mass shooting prompted Johnson to be more hands-on.
“It was very hurtful it brought back memories of the 9 people in the church because I was called 45 minutes after by the mayor of Charleston,” said Elder Johnson reacting to the mass shootings.
The panel made up of lawmakers, law enforcement and community activists discussed gun reform in the state. Speakers honed in on the use of high powered firearms and need for extensive background checks.
Johnson added, “Within 40 seconds in oh we had 26 people injured and 9 dead.”
The discussion didn’t just focus on mass shootings, speakers also addressed the need to curb everyday gun violence.
“Poverty is the greatest, most pervasive, deepest form of violence in this society and gun violence is simply a symptom,” explained Efia Nwangaza from the Malcolm X Center for Self-Determination in Greenville.
The panel also addressed hate groups in South Carolina and the need for hate crime laws in the state.
Dr. Germon Moriniere-Bey with the R.I.C.H program says changing one’s mind is the first step. “We’re talking centuries of discord. it starts in the home. Until we can get in the homes and change that we’re not going to change that.”
Federal hate crime laws carry certain criteria and do not apply to juveniles.
Lack of state hate crime laws prevent local law enforcement from filing charges for crimes that do not meet federal statute requirements.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott also advocated the need for hate crime laws. The Midlands sheriff recapped a recent incident in Columbia where a high school student threatened violence against a school and African Americans.
However, because there are no hate crime laws at the state level, Sheriff Lott could only charge the student for his threats against the school.
Lawmakers return to the State House in January, but there’s already pressure on the General Assembly to pass laws that would enhance background checks, define hate crimes and limit access to high powered firearms.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center there were 17 hate groups in South Carolina last year.