Violence spurs gun questions Police, community call for action against illegal firearms
Saturday, April 14, 2007 BY NOAH HAGLUND
Need a gun? Less than $50 and a few connections are all it takes to purchase a 9 mm handgun through illegal channels on the streets of Charleston, according to one local minister. No age restrictions apply.
The Rev. James Johnson was appalled by shootings that killed teens in Charleston and North Charleston this week. The minister from the Church of Prosperity and Love on Dorchester Road wants to see legislators tackle the flow of illicit weapons into local neighborhoods.
"These young boys and young men in the community, they don't make weapons," he said. "They're (the weapons) being dumped here."
Charleston set a modern record for homicides in 2006, ending the year with 23.
The six homicides so far this year put the city on par with the total at the same time last year. Other jurisdictions, such as North Charleston, are seeing similar homicide numbers compared to last year.
The unrelenting violence leaves the Rev. Johnson and others asking where the guns used to kill people on the streets are coming from. Police want to know, too.
In most cases, the guns aren't recovered. Most of the guns they do find are stolen during car break-ins and home burglaries, Charleston police Lt. Richard Moser said.
Many police officials think the justice system can do a better job prosecuting people who commit crimes with guns or who shouldn't own one because of age or prior criminal record.
There are weapons laws on the books. Police make arrests. Still, offenders charged with weapons violations wind up with minor penalties.
Mayor Joe Riley and other Charleston officials have proposed 18 changes to state laws to help reduce violent crime. Some deal with firearms: Prohibiting those convicted of any crime punishable by one year or more in jail from possessing any firearm; mandatory sentences for illegal handgun possession; and mandatory sentences for carrying any gun while under the age of 21, with exception of lawful activities such as hunting.
If you go The S.C. Senate Criminal Justice Task Force will conduct a public forum at 5:30 p.m. Monday at North Charleston City Hall, 4900 LaCross Road, to discuss legislation needed to stem the tide of violence. The public is encouraged to attend. The Task Force will receive public testimony and discuss legislative initiatives to improve South Carolina's criminal justice system.
Attending will be Sens. Robert Ford, D-Charleston; Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston; Gerald Malloy, D-Hartsville; Jake Knotts, R-West Columbia; and Luke Rankin, R-Myrtle Beach.