SC’s lone Democrat splits with delegates on gun control

jself@thestate.comDecember 20, 2012 

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, South Carolina’s lone Democrat in Washington, is the state’s only member of Congress calling for tighter restrictions on guns, including a ban on assault weapons, a week after a gunman massacred 20 schoolchildren and six adults in Newtown, Conn., before killing himself.

Meanwhile, South Carolina’s Republican congressmen and senators have expressed opposition to proposals to restrict gun rights.

Asked how to stop another Newtown, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said in a statement, “(O)ne way is to take every sharp object out of society.”

But, the Seneca Republican added, that is not practical.

In a statement, Clyburn, from Columbia, said he supports a ban on assault weapons and large-ammunition magazines similar to what was enacted in 1994 under President Bill Clinton. The ban lapsed under President George W. Bush.

Clyburn said he would like to “revisit that policy and potentially improve upon it,” while considering additional policy changes.

“We must be comprehensive in how we react to the Newtown tragedy by considering common-sense policies that would also address access to mental-health services, support for troubled youth and improved security measures in our schools,” he said.

Clyburn’s position is in line with President Barack Obama and Democratic lawmakers who have called for bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Obama announced Wednesday the creation of a gun violence task force to recommend legislation by January.

What the South Carolinians think is important because any legislation proposed must pass Congress to become law.

The state’s congressional Republicans say the post-Newtown focus should be on mental health and individual responsibility, not new laws.

U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, R-North Charleston, who was appointed to Jim DeMint’s Senate seat this week, said Wednesday he wants to see investigative reports from the shooting before deciding if any new laws are needed.

“It’s hard for us to know what to do at this point,” Scott said. “We have not had enough time to bury the folks in this tragedy. Jumping to conclusions at this time would be inappropriate.”

Graham, the state’s senior congressional Republican, opposes an assault weapons ban, spokesman Kevin Bishop said.

“I don’t feel like that’s going to stop anything,” Graham said in one statement. “The worst thing we can do is create false sense of security. ...

“I don’t think it’s very practical to round up and confiscate every gun. It’s also not practical to start arresting and putting in jail people who just appear to be dangerous.”

U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-Indian Land, warned against singling out gun rights as the nation discusses how to move forward in the wake of the Newtown tragedy.

“Seeking to lay blame after an unspeakable tragedy is a natural and normal reaction,” Mulvaney said in a statement. “As we struggle to arrive at explanations for the inexplicable, and to lay blame, I hope we focus first and foremost on the individual(s) responsible.

“To the extent the discussion moves toward broader societal issues, I hope we look at more than just gun control,” he said. “We must, as a nation, be willing to talk about mental health, the glamorization of violence, the true cost of broken homes and the general culture of death that permeates our society.

“Any attempt to single out our constitutional protections and liberties as a cause of this tragedy would be misplaced,” Mulvaney said.

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-Springdale, was not available for comment.

But his spokeswoman, Caroline Delleney, said in an email, “As far as the horrific massacre occurring in (Connecticut) last Friday, Congressman Wilson is completely heartbroken over the event and his thoughts and prayers are with the family. Should legislation be proposed surrounding the event, the congressman will carefully consider (it).”

U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of Greenville, and U.S. Reps. Trey Gowdy of Spartanburg, Jeff Duncan of Laurens and congressmen-elect Tom Rice of Myrtle Beach were not available for comment.

However, since Newtown, the two congressmen and Rice have said the way to curb gun violence may not be with new gun-control legislation.

Reporter Andy Shain contributed to this report.

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