Stop stalling on gun crime laws that could save lives

The recent gunshot death of a 2-year-old Lancaster child should cause us all to consider our stance on guns, gun laws and gun violence.

We still don’t know all the details about the death of Jacarion Antonio Gladden. Arrest warrants say the toddler found a gun on a table and was shot. The gun belonged to Shazeem Hayes, an 18-year-old. Probation officials and court records say Hayes is a convicted felon, barred by state law from having a gun because of his criminal record.

The child’s death drew yet another round of attention to the city of Lancaster and Lancaster County, where gun violence has been a problem.

On Aug. 6, The Herald published this list:

▪ February, a woman was shot in what Lancaster Police Chief Scott Grant called an “absolute senseless act of violence.” The woman was driving through an apartment complex parking lot.

▪ March, an India-born shopkeeper was gunned down outside his home in a crime where the defendants targeted “The Indian.”

▪ April, a man was killed and four teens arrested after a shootout outside apartments.

▪ June, a drive-by shooting that left two people dead.

▪ Later in June, a high school student was shot outside a gymnasium.

▪ July 19, a teen shot at a fleeing woman and wounded her. Another person took video and posted it to Facebook.

And now this lastest shooting. On July 31, Jacarion Antonio Gladden was fatally shot in his Lancaster home. Jacarion was 2 years old.

Lancaster isn’t the only city in South Carolina where guns and gun violence pose a threat to innocent people. Nationwide, it has become too easy to talk about this problem, wring our hands, pray for the victims, but ultimately take no action.

The time-worn cliche is “Guns don’t kill people. People do.”

You often hear that amid yet another debate about stricter gun control laws. The debate goes nowhere, other than to force people further into their opposing ideological corners. One group is passionate about protecting Second Amendment rights. The other is passionate about public safety and combating crime.

The irony is the sides should never have become mutually exclusive. You can combat crime and ensure public safety without infringing on Constitutional rights.

Some people should not own guns, nor should they have access to them. And when you own a gun illegally, there should be an appropriate penalty. If you commit a crime using an illegal weapon, the penalty should reflect that.

That’s not the case now.

There are situations in South Carolina where the punishment for shoplifting can be more severe than that for repeatedly possessing a gun illegally. In most of the cases cited in the list above, the guns used were illegal.

South Carolina can do something. There is proposed legislation that has stalled in Columbia.

S.C. Sen. Greg Gregory, R-Lancaster, has proposed a bill to make gun penalties harsher for repeat violators.

Now is the time to move that legislation forward. The national debate about guns and gun rights will rage on. That’s not in South Carolina’s control.

However, that debate is not an excuse for our lawmakers to avoid a move now that might save lives.