COLUMBIA -- Several members of South Carolina’s GOP-dominated federal delegation say it’s not the time to debate the politically-charged issue of gun control following last week’s mass shooting at a Connecticut school.
But it may be time to address the availability of mental health services, officials said.
U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the delegation’s lone Democrat, stands alone so far among delegation members in calling for revisiting the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban. Clyburn said the law could be used as a framework for potential additional changes.
“At the same time, I believe that 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,” Clyburn said in a statement.
U.S. Senator-designate Tim Scott of North Charleston told The Post and Courier this week that there is danger in attempting to jump to conclusions without time for reflection after the massacre.
He said Connecticut has some of the strongest gun laws in the country, and that a balanced approach is needed.
“There are certainly some challenges within the individual that need to be addressed,” added Scott, a Republican.
Some have hinted that the Connecticut shooter’s possible diagnosis of a developmental disorder may be linked to the shooting, while others have said it’s wrong to connect the slaughter with such a disorder.
Tyler Grassmeyer, chief of staff for GOP U.S. Rep.-elect Tom Rice of Myrtle Beach, said Tuesday that Rice thinks the issue is much broader than debate over gun control.
“I think Congressman Rice thinks we need to re-examine just the culture of violence in our country,” Grassmeyer said. “People with severe mental health problems, we need to have social networks, and that includes the faith-based community as well as government entities to make sure they are taken care of as well. How do we prevent future (shootings) from happening by changing the support network?”
Allen Klump, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, said the Republican from Laurens fully supports the Second Amendment, and his views on gun control have not changed after the shooting.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s office did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday, but Graham told the Washington Times this week that the shooting should not be used as a political tool.
“Don’t bring a solution to the problem unrelated to the problem,” he told the newspaper. “The question for me is, how do you prevent mass murder? Isn’t that what we’re talking about? How do you stop somebody from doing what this guy did — shooting his mother in the head and killing a bunch of kids? I guess one way is to take every sharp object out of society. I don’t think that’s very practical, to round up every gun or start putting people in jail who just appear to be dangerous.”
The offices of several other members of the state’s federal delegation said the officials were unavailable to talk about the issue Tuesday, or did not respond to requests for comment.
Hope Derrick, spokeswoman for Clyburn, said the congressman’s office has received a handful of calls and several dozen emails about the shooting.
She said the pleas are running about two-to-one in favor of “taking weapons of war off the streets,” “closing loopholes at gun shows” and making ammunition harder to get through regulation and taxation. Many of those opposing gun control would liked armed personnel in all schools, Derrick said.
Reach Stephen Largen at 864-641-8172 and follow him on Twitter @stephenlargen.
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