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Everytown Statement on the 5-Year Mark of the Charleston Shooting

June 17, 2020

5 Years Ago Today, a White Supremacist Killed 9 Black Americans While They Prayed in Charleston’s Mother Emanuel Church

The Charleston Loophole––Named After the Loophole the Shooter Exploited to Purchase a Gun––Has Likely Become Even Deadlier During the Pandemic

NEW YORK ––  Everytown and its grassroots networks, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, released the following statements on the 5-year mark of the Charleston shooting, during which a white supremacist murdered nine Black Americans while they prayed in Charleston’s Mother Emanuel church.

The shooter was armed with a gun he was prohibited from buying, but was able to purchase because of the NRA-backed “Charleson loophole”––a gap in federal law that allows a gun sale to proceed without a completed background check if, after three business days, the check has not been completed. The loophole has likely become deadlier during the pandemic, due to a surge in gun sales that has overwhelmed our background check system and made it likelier than ever that background checks will take longer than three business days. 

“It’s been five years since a white supremacist walked into Mother Emanuel Church and murdered nine Black Americans with a gun he was legally barred from buying, but we’re still waiting for Senate Majority Leader McConnell to close the loophole that allowed that gun sale to go through,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety.  “Thanks to McConnell’s unwillingness to buck the NRA, 1.4 million potential gun sales have fallen through the Charleston loophole since that tragic day in South Carolina. American voters are fed up with the Senate’s inaction, and will bring their demands for common sense gun safety laws into the voting booth this November.”

“As we mark five years since the tragedy at Mother Emanuel, we’re reminded of how far we still must go when it comes to stopping gun violence and white supremacy,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “To address this dual crisis, the nation needs policy and cultural change, from addressing the Charleston loophole to combating the racism that has been part of America since its founding. And it’s incumbent upon all of us to dismantle these systems of oppression that Black communities face every day.”

“Five years ago today, a white supremacist murdered my mom, two of my cousins, and one childhood friend with a gun he was legally prohibited from purchasing,” said Rev. Sharon Risher, a Moms Demand Action volunteer and survivor of gun violence whose mother, two cousins, and childhood friend were killed during the Mother Emanuel shooting. “Nobody should have to live with the pain of losing a loved one to preventable gun violence, and I will neither forgive nor forget Senator McConnell’s failure to close the very loophole that took my family from me.”

“I really feel that this event five years ago, that led to us getting this legislation through the House, started a period of reassessment and caused people to recalculate a lot about this country and a lot about themselves,” said House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) on a Tuesday press call with Everytown for Gun Safety. “ I do believe that we are where we are today, as a result of what started in the basement of Emanuel AME Church five years ago.”

“Five years ago, tomorrow, our city was rocked by a horrific act of racism and violence,” said Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC) on a Tuesday press call with Everytown for Gun Safety. “There is a direct line between the shooter and the forces that allow a complete lack of accountability when it comes to the killing of Black men and women in this country. I am hopeful that what we are seeing now is a widespread, broad coalition of the willing who are ready to take a hard look at what we’ve failed to accomplish in the past and have the courage to fight for what’s right. That includes closing the Charleston loophole and passing meaningful legislation to address police brutality and systemic racism.”

Today at 4:00PM EDT, Everytown is participating in a virtual town hall to discuss the five-year mark of the shooting. The town hall is being hosted by Whip Clyburn and Rep. Cunningham, and will feature State Rep. Marvin Pendarvis; Rev. Eric Manning, the reverend at Mother Emanuel Church; and Tisa Whack, a Moms Demand Action volunteer whose 23-year-old son, Tyrell, was shot and killed on November 30, 2015, in South Carolina. You can register for the town hall HERE

Over a year ago, the House of Representatives passed Whip Clyburn’s bipartisan legislation to address this deadly loophole, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has failed to even bring the bill to the floor for a vote. This inaction has grown even more dangerous during the pandemic, with the background check system overwhelmed by surging gun sales. In fact, even President Trump’s Department of Justice has asked for more money to perform background checks and retrieve firearms that should not have been sold.

Black Americans are killed every day by the same hate and racism that motivated the Charleston shooter. Ending this violence requires policy and cultural change, as well as addressing the racism that has been part of America since its founding. 

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