Buses from across the state will shuttle at least 300 families hurt by gun violence to an upcoming event at Emanuel AME Church, where a racist gunman is accused of killing nine worshippers last summer.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the S.C. Commission for Minority Affairs are planning a prayer service, live discussion with CNN and premiere of a Katie Couric documentary about gun violence at the event scheduled for 3:30 p.m. April 24 at the historic church on Calhoun Street.
“We want to tell them that we love them and that Jesus loves them,” said Louis Smith, co-president of the state’s chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Organizers will hold a press conference to announce the event at 11 a.m. Wednesday in front of Emanuel AME Church along with several dozen families impacted by gun violence.
Nearly 33,000 people die nationwide from gun violence each year, roughly two-thirds of them in suicides and most of the others in homicides, according to the Brady Campaign.
“When asked to host the event, we said yes. We want to be available to the community,” said Emanuel AME’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Betty Deas Clark. “We want to have an open door.”
That door remains open even after a small group attending Emanuel AME’s regular Wednesday night Bible study on June 17 welcomed a stranger to study Scripture with them. When the group said a closing prayer, the guest stood and fired 77 bullets, killing nine people. Five others in the church survived, including two children.
Yet accused killer Dylann Roof should not have been able to purchase a gun because he had admitted possessing illegal drugs before.
When Roof attempted to purchase the gun, he underwent a background check. However, a clerical error delayed that investigation. After waiting the required three days, the gun shop owner sold Roof a .45-caliber handgun even though his background check had not been completed.
About 50 gun rights-related bills are pending in the General Assembly. Among them are bipartisan proposals to close what’s become known as the “Charleston loophole” by extending the required wait for background checks to 28 days.
So far, lawmakers have not taken action on extending background checks, even though polls show wide bipartisan support among the general public for them.
“We need these loopholes closed. The violence has got to stop,” Smith said. “We’re doing all this to push the General Assembly in South Carolina to do something.”