COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - In the aftermath of deadly shootings in Texas and Ohio, two South Carolina lawmakers sent a letter to be hand-delivered to Gov. Henry McMaster. The letter asked for an emergency session to pass new laws they say will help prevent similar situations from happening in the Palmetto State.
The two Democratic House Members are calling for votes on a bill banning assault rifles and another passing a hate crimes bill in our state. “South Carolina has already suffered the loss of 9 innocent lives as a result of a hate crime at Mother Emanuel AME Church,” Democratic Reps. Wendell Gilliard and Wendy Brawley wrote to McMaster.
House Speaker Jay Lucas has not yet responded to questions about the session.
However, according to Gilliard, hate crime legislation has a “heartbeat” in the Statehouse. The hate crime bill he sponsors was introduced on January 9th and passed a Judiciary subcommittee on May 8th.
South Carolina is one of four states in the United States without hate crime legislation. "South Carolina is always last in the things that are first and first in the things that are last, sad to say this is a situation where that is true,” said Gilliard.
The others are Arkansas, Georgia, and Wyoming. Indiana’s hate crime bill was passed in April, but advocacy groups like the Anti-Defamation League say it’s inadequate.
Gilliard said his bill creates additional charges in addition to the charges warranted by the crime itself.
The bill defines a hate crime as an offense “with the intent to assault, intimidate, or threaten a person because of his race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin, sexual orientation, or homelessness." If a hate crime is committed, the person would face extra years in jail and additional fines. Specifically a two year minimum in federal prison, a $2,000 minimum fine, and 15 years maximum in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Federal hate crime legislation was used to persecute Dylann Roof after the Mother Emanuel shooting, but Gilliard, who represents the area, says the families of the Emanuel Nine wanted the tragedy to be labeled a hate-crime faster. He says this bill would do that, but the Statehouse needs to act.
“The wheels are moving too slow- we don't care, it’s a disparity, it's a defunct. When it comes to people of color, it's a double standard. You can't say the law applied to one ethnic group and not another, we got to cut that out,” he said.
If no special session is called, the Statehouse is not scheduled to meet until the second Tuesday in January.