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Everytown Statement on the Six-Year Mark of Charleston’s Mother Emanuel Church Shooting

June 17, 2021

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

Loopholes in Our Existing Gun Laws, Including the Charleston Loophole––Named After the Loophole the Shooter Exploited to Purchase a Gun––Have 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 6-year mark of the Charleston shooting, in which a white supremacist murdered nine Black people while they prayed in Charleston’s Mother Emanuel church.

“Six years ago, the Charleston loophole allowed a white supremacist to get his hands on a gun that he used to murder nine Black Americans gathered together in prayer,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “As gun sales have surged, the Charleston loophole that facilitated that tragedy has only grown larger, and the need to close it has only grown more urgent. The Senate needs to honor the victims and survivors of Charleston with action, and pass bipartisan background check legislation now.”

“This somber day reminds us of just how far we have to go to address the dual, overlapping crises of gun violence and white supremacy,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “We demand that our Senators from both sides of the aisle come together to act on gun safety, and we demand action to dismantle the systems of oppression that have devastated Black communities for generations.”

“I wish something had been done to change our laws before the gun that killed my mom was sold to the shooter. But if not then, the best time to act is right now. We cannot keep waking up to shooting after shooting and accept this as an inevitable reality,” 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. “The Senate must take bipartisan action to close the Charleston loophole and strengthen our background check laws.”

The shooter was armed with a gun he was prohibited from buying, but was able to purchase because of the NRA-backed “Charleston 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 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. In March, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1446, introduced by Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), with bipartisan support. The bill would address the Charleston loophole by giving law enforcement additional time to complete background checks.

Mother Emanuel is hosting a series of commemorative events over the next week in honor of the nine Black worshippers murdered six years ago, and the Emanuel Nine Memorial encourages people to reconcile their hearts and actions with the example set by families of the Emanuel Nine. 

Everytown Research has tracked the rise in armed terrorism and the role of the gun lobby in exposing broader audiences to the potentially radicalizing messaging of the far right, fanning the flames of anger and fear in those already radicalized, and advocating for lax gun laws that enable violent extremists to arm themselves. Federal action addressing the lax gun laws that allowed this tragedy to occur is the first step in making sure those filled with hate and racism like the Charleston shooter don’t have access to firearms.

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