The past two weeks of gun violence have not been South Carolina’s best days, and there are many who say the answer is more guns in the hands of everybody who wants one.
A state where it is not just legal but acceptable manners to place your pistol on the counter at a restaurant when ordering sweet tea is again America’s gun paradise.
South Carolina guns – bought and stolen, used recklessly – continue to kill, maim and tear apart families as far away as New York’s Chinatown and Brooklyn and right here in Rock Hill and Spartanburg and Chester.
It started April 4 with a trained gun owner and user, a North Charleston cop who should have known better what guns can do. Officer Michael Slager, who is white, shot an unarmed suspect, , who is black, in the back as the suspect fled a traffic stop. Slager shot eight times and hit Walter Scott five times.
Scott is dead and Slager is headed for prison, without any doubt, because people who have guns and use them stupidly and kill unarmed people belong in prison.
Dozens of cops the past two weeks in Rock Hill and Fort Mill and Chester have said the shooting was wrong. It goes against the training all cops get. Police are trained to use a gun when their life is at risk or somebody else’s life is in jeopardy.
America, rightfully, is sickened by what Slager and a few other police officers in recent months have done with guns that are supposed to be used only as a last resort.
Then last Sunday night, Rock Hill criminal defense lawyer Cyrus Hinton – who has spent 17 years counseling young men to stay away from guns, then defending them when they got into trouble – was shot and killed in his own home. Police say his 23-year-old son, Osiris Hinton, had a gun and used it.
The 9 mm handgun belonged to Cyrus Hinton, but somehow his son, who the mother and son’s lawyer said is mentally ill and had a “psychotic episode,” got his hands on it.
The lawyer, Michael Brown, black, a Spartanburg County councilman and Hinton’s former law partner, even said in open court that this was not a case of “a young black man having a gun,” which far too often ends in death.
Cyrus Hinton – a gentle man, a decent man, a caring man, a black man who was proud to stand up against the violence and injustice and racism against black men in America, as real as any bullet wound – died from a gun in his home handled irresponsibly. The son admitted to the shooting and, unless there is a mental status defense, likely will go to prison for decades.
Finally last week, after almost two years, all seven Rock Hill gunrunners who stole or bought guns in York County and resold them in New York City, where gun laws are far more strict, are now where they belong – in prison.
“We got a lot of guns off the street here, but most were stolen from people,” said Sgt. Allen Cantey, the York County drug task force agent who helped federal and New York cops locate and arrest the criminals. “Who knows what those guns would have been used for in New York?”
Target practice, certainly – the target being people. Or used as threats during street deals for more guns, drugs, whatever.
This crew of convicted felons and a couple who were just wannabe gangsters burglarized houses and cars and stole guns that were not stored responsibly. Or they just waltzed into a store, waited the one day for a background check, and left with enough guns to start a war.
They were so brazen, yet stupid, that the ringleader, Earl Campbell, didn’t even know they could buy guns almost every day. He thought it was a month waiting period, so they stole guns on off days.
They called bullets “cop killers” and had names for favorite guns, and some even boasted on social media with pictures of guns and money. They carried guns around in grocery bags and backpacks.
All the people involved in the gunrunning scheme are black. Did their race matter? No. Guns ruined them just as easily as guns ruined Michael Slager (white) and Walter Scott (black) and a white teenager in Chester County named Clayton Eli Watts.
In court in Chester County on Wednesday, Watts pleaded guilty to murder in connection with the shooting death of his grandmother. Watts recruited a black schoolmate, who then recruited another black teen, into a murder-for-hire plot that went wrong on so many levels. Watts did not like cleaning his room, or doing anything his granny told him to do, so he offered money he expected to get from his inheritance when she was dead.
Some friends. Instead of chasing girls together, they plot murders.
Watts, now 19, will spend at least 30 years in prison. The two black co-defendants have not gone to court yet, but police say they have confessed.
In a terrible coincidence, Cyrus Hinton, the heroic black lawyer killed by his own gun, was representing one of Watts’ co-defendants.
Did race matter in Chester? No. The white teen is in prison and the black teens face prison if convicted.
The guns were in the house of the grandmother and grandfather of the white teen. He had access to the guns and used them in the crime.
Guns, ostensibly for protection at home, used to kill a granny on her kitchen floor. Police say one of the murder weapons was sold on the street, later, for enough marijuana for the shooter to get high.
Guns – the sole purpose being to shoot them, and with shooting comes bullet holes and death – did what no politician or church has done. Guns – with their pain that defies racial discrimination – continue to wreck the lives of both black and white equally.
Andrew Dys • 803-329-4065 • firstname.lastname@example.org