COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — State lawmakers said they were shocked by video that shows youth baseball players and coaches in South Carolina ducking for cover while shots rang out nearby.
According to the North Charleston Police Department (NCPD), the incident happened in a parking lot near Pepperhill Park shortly before 8:45 p.m Monday.
Police said that an altercation between two groups led to dozens of shots being fired. Meanwhile, several youth baseball games were underway at the fields at Pepperhill Park.
Representative Marvin Pendarvis (D-Charleston) represents the district where the shooting was reported. He said he was shocked and disappointed by what happened.
“At the end of the day no one wants to be at a ball game and have to witness gunshots like that,” he said Tuesday.
According to Pendarvis, the city of North Charleston has seen a string of gun violence and the problem needs to be addressed.
He said, “We have to eradicate it somehow. It’s a public health issue. The sooner we treat it as a public health issue and we try to address at it’s root cause, the sooner we’ll get to coming up with comprehensive solutions to address it.”
Pendarvis said keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them needs to be a priority.
“We know what measures we can take to reduce shootings and save lives,” he said. “We know that universal background checks make gun transactions safer and reduce the chance of a gun falling in the wrong hands, but we do nothing to act on it. A bill to close the Charleston loophole has sat stagnant in the legislature for years.”
House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Chris Murphy (R-Dorchester) agrees people having weapons illegally is part of the problem. He said state lawmakers need to do everything they can to support law enforcement.
“One of the answers is we got to continue to fund law enforcement. We have to give our crime fighters the tools, the funds necessary to combat this increase in violence,” he said.
Earlier this year, the House passed a budget plan that includes pay raises for state law enforcement officers. The Senate is considering a similar proposal in their plan this week.
Murphy stressed any possible reform needs to target illegal gun possession and not gun owners who follow the law.
“It’s not a law abiding citizen that’s causing the problem,” he said. “It’s criminals and those getting these guns illegally that’s causing the problem.”
There is some bipartisan support for a push to create harsher penalties for someone carrying a gun illegally.
WSPA reported last week when Senator Dick Harpootlian (D-Richland) spoke on the Senate floor on a plan to enhance penalties for unlawful carrying of a handgun following the mass shooting at Columbia Centre mall over Easter weekend.
Tuesday, Governor Henry McMaster tweeted he stands with Senator Harpootlian and others pushing for no bond and mandatory minimum sentencing for illegal possession of a gun.
If lawmakers want to make changes, they’ll have to move quickly. The regular legislative session ends May 12.