Majority Whip Clyburn Floor Statement on Passage of the “Charleston Loophole”

Feb 28, 2019 Issues: Defense and National Security

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1112 The Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019 today by a vote of 228-198. The bipartisan legislation will fix the so-called “Charleston Loophole” that currently allows the sale of a firearm to proceed if a background check is not completed within three days.

This loophole in the background check system is the reason a gunman was able to obtain the weapon used to murder nine people and wound three others as they participated in a Bible study at the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina in June 2015. Had the FBI background check been completed, the perpetrator of the Emanuel massacre would have been barred from purchasing a firearm.

H.R. 1112 extends the initial background check review period from 3 business days to 10 business days. If after 10 business days the background check system has not returned an answer to the gun dealer, the purchaser may request an escalated review. If the additional 10 business days elapse without a response from the background check system, then the licensed gun dealer may sell or transfer the gun to the purchaser.

Before the vote this morning, U.S. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn gave the following floor statement:

   

Click image to watch the full floor statement

“I have a prepared text here that I would like to enter into the record. But let me begin my remarks, first of all, by welcoming to our Capitol today Ms. Jennifer Pinckney and her two daughters. They are wife and children of Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who along with eight of his Bible study parishioners, lost his life to a demented white supremacist who said that he was interested in starting a race war. He entered their church, participated in the Bible study, which they welcomed him into, and as they closed their study that evening and prayed for what they had experienced and for their next meeting, this gentleman, while their eyes were closed, opened his and slaughtered them.

“I find it interesting my colleague has talked about the inconvenience of waiting longer than three days to purchase a weapon without mentioning those poor souls of Emanuel A.M.E. church. He’s talked about people who might be inconvenienced. He’s talked about something he read in the newspapers, but he has not mentioned them. Well, I’m here today to say that the members of this august body need to think a little bit about the value of those lives. Are they more valuable than the inconvenience a gun purchaser may have by having to wait 10 rather than three days to make a purchase? What would make one so anxious to purchase a gun in the first place? If you've got to have a gun right now, chances are you have no useful purpose, no redeeming value, in the purchase of that gun. And maybe we ought to participate here as members of this body in helping this purchaser with a cooling off period, which is all we are asking to do here.

“Charleston, South Carolina is nicknamed the Holy City. Churches and steeples dominate the skyline of this historic city which until recently had an ordinance that no building could be constructed higher than 55 feet, wanting nothing to obstruct the steeples. Faith is fundamental to the Charleston community. However, that faith was rocked in June 2015 when this lone gunman rushed into this bible study after studying the most historic African American churches in the state of South Carolina, developed a list of five churches, one of which was Emmanuel A.M.E. He, by his own admission, selected this church because of its importance to the African American community, being the first organized place of worship in the South for African Americans. He selected this. This was a hate crime of the first order. And we are saying we should not inconvenience him. And we did not inconvenience him. We allowed him to get that gun after three days, when it was around the fifth day they found the glitch in the system and found him to be ineligible to own a gun.

“We just had a gunman go into his workplace in Aurora, Illinois. He was ineligible to have a gun. But he was allowed to purchase a gun. When they found out he was ineligible, they sent him a letter saying please bring us a gun back, you are not eligible to have a gun. Give me a break. No, he didn't return the gun because he had no redeeming value in having the gun. He murdered his co-workers. And you're telling me we should not inconvenience him.

“Well, my colleague, the chair of the committee has laid out a procedure in this bill, a procedure that makes it a maximum, irrespective of what my colleague may say, a maximum of 20 working days, business days, that one would have in order to purchase a gun.

“I would hope as we move forward here today we would think about those poor souls of Emanuel A.M.E. church. We'll think about those 4,000 people, 4,200 people who purchased guns in 2016 using this loophole. The 4,800 people who purchased guns in 2017 using this loophole. Think about their families. Think about their children. And think about what we’re about to do here today.

“Let me take this minute to go back to what I had prepared to say here today. In troubling times many of us find solace in the serenity prayer. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can. And wisdom, wisdom to know the difference.

“The Charleston loophole is something all members of Congress should have the courage to change. And by doing so, grant the American people the serenity they deserve in their schools, in their entertainment venues, in their neighborhood streets. And god forbid in their places of worship.”