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Mark Sanford Talks Gun Reform and Safety at Student-Organized Town Hall

Confronted by Students, Teachers, and Concerned Students, Sanford Clarifies his Stance on Gun Reform

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On Saturday April 14th at Burke High School, Stanford responded to constituents’ questions, complaints, and general opinions on gun reform and public safety. Seated beside AMHS Senior Will Donellon, Sanford discussed his philosophy about gun control which essentially places the protection of the Second Amendment a priority over restrictions that could lead to a safer environment. Conversely, the audience consisted largely of left-leaning and moderate citizens who directly opposed his notion of gun reforms or lack thereof. While sometimes emotional and combative, this confrontation of different ideals ultimately led to a productive, democratic meeting.

Forming two lines, attendees of the town hall took turns questioning the congressman on a variety of gun reform issues, but predominantly focused on his relationship with the NRA, background checks, and assault weapons. Also a point of national contention, the involvement of the NRA and its funding of contested elections was almost immediately brought to the floor. Responding honestly, Sanford admitted to having accepted 6,000 NRA dollars in the 2018 election cycle, which he claims to be insignificant to his overall funds of 18 million and generally a signal of their shared values rather than a purchase of his vote. Challenging his statement, one participant asked if, since the contribution was so insignificant, he would consider either returning it or refusing further payments from the NRA to which he declined. Taking a broader look at the involvement of PAC money in his campaigning, one attendee questioned his allegiance to the people over his prime contributors. Sanford noted that he had once promised running as Governor that he would take no PAC money, but switched over once he started running for congress, perhaps because he did not believe he could rely on individual contributions. While obviously expensive to run a campaign, it is worth mentioning that his challenger, Joe Cunningham, is taking no PAC money and has out-raised or gotten close to Sanford on individual donations alone in several fiscal quarters.

When questioned about his stance on background checks, Sanford appeared more receptive, even admitting his uncertainty on a few policies. In previous votes, Sanford has endorsed a 24-hour background check policy over a 72-hour background check, which refers to the amount of time the NICS has to conduct a background check before the consumer can purchase a firearm. As several attendees pointed out, this clearly indicates an endorsement of the Charleston loop-hole, which allowed Dylan Roof to acquire a weapon. The state legislature is currently trying to adjust this policy to five days, which Mark Sanford agreed to and promised that he would propose a similar bill in Congress. While making no guarantees, Sanford also stated his uncertainty about not having background checks at gun shows, potentially revealing a future point of change in the congressman.

In terms of assault weapons, Sanford stands strongly with the Second Amendment, despite recognizing the contradiction in their threat to the public which would not be tolerated by military forces in foreign countries. Multiple veterans raised this illogical double standard, also citing that they undergo more training serving in the military for essentially the same weapons that citizens can acquire without a background check. Sanford claimed that he must default to what the majority of his constituents feel is important, which he later turned back on after agreeing with a member of the crowd that those owning assault weapons made up roughly 20-30% of his constituency. She replied stating: 

“why can’t we just call them [assault weapon owners] the minority then?””

After nearly three hours, the town hall closed with a summation of what had been clarified: Sanford will propose a bill similar to S. 516 that would extend the background check period to five days, he will continue to take money from the NRA, and he remains in alignment with the Second Amendment when it comes to assault weapons.

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