Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

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March 9

The Post and Courier on gun control legislation reintroduced to Congress by a U.S. representative from South Carolina:

Nearly six years after Dylann Roof was able to buy a gun and use it to kill nine people in Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, little has been done to improve the administration of national background checks required when purchasing a gun from a licensed federal firearms dealer. Congress has another chance to correct this failure and should do so without delay.

The Enhanced Background Checks Act reintroduced March 2 by U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., would help close the so-called “Charleston loophole” that allowed Mr. Roof to purchase his firearm when the federal background check was not completed within three business days. Mr. Clyburn’s bill would expand that narrow window by giving law enforcement 10 business days to complete a background check. If the review is not finished in that time, the purchaser could ask for a faster review to start an FBI investigation, The Post and Courier’s Thomas Novelly reported.

The three-day time frame played a central role in Mr. Roof’s ability to purchase his weapon. There also was a clerical error in how his arrest on a misdemeanor drug charge was reported, making it difficult to find the police incident report. An examiner sent faxes to several law enforcement agencies in South Carolina, but none of the requests for the report went to the correct agency. A larger but still reasonable window to review purchases could have given officials enough time to overcome these mistakes and complete a proper background check.

The Second Amendment is a cherished part of the Constitution, and millions of Americans enjoy the benefits of responsible gun ownership. But as the Roof case tragically demonstrated, we need commonsense reform when it comes to gun purchases. In 2019, almost 3,000 guns were sold to people with criminal records, mental illnesses and other circumstances that should have disqualified them from purchasing a firearm. They were able to buy the guns because of the inability to complete background checks within three days, according to Mr. Clyburn’s office. Since 1998, the “Charleston loophole” has put more than 75,000 guns into the hands of prohibited gun owners. That’s an unacceptable risk to our public safety.

Gun purchases surged in 2020, putting additional pressure on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System that verifies a purchaser’s eligibility to buy a gun.

The legislation also would require the comptroller general to submit periodic reports to Congress analyzing the extent to which the law has stopped ineligible purchases. And it calls for the attorney general to provide Congress with an analysis of the law’s impact on the safety of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. Both requirements would provide helpful data and ensure the act is working as intended.

Extending the legal deadline for reviewing a gun purchase would provide another tool to protect Americans from gun violence. The legislation previously passed the House and likely will get through the Democratic-controlled House again. It faces a less certain fate in the Senate, where it could use the support of South Carolina Republicans Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott. The bill deserves full congressional support.

Online: https://www.postandcourier.com/

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March 8:

The Times and Democrat on the South Carolina Legislature addressing a ‘key opioid issue':

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster in 2017 declared the misuse of opioids a statewide public health emergency. Even though COVID-19 has gotten all the focus for the past year, the opioid emergency has not gone away. It has worsened.

According to September 2020 data from the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services, overdoses in the state were 50% higher in 2020 than in 2019. In May 2020 alone, EMS personnel responded to 915 suspected opioid overdoses in South Carolina – the highest monthly number ever recorded in the state.

Now state leaders are coming together to support an important step in curbing deaths from overdoses by expanding access to potentially lifesaving overdose-reversal medications such as naloxone for at-risk patients.

Subcommittees in the S.C. House and Senate this past week gave approval to legislation introduced by S.C. Sens. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, and Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, in the Senate and Rep. Russell Fry, R-Horry, in the House that would require opioid prescribers to co-prescribe an overdose-reversal medication such as naloxone for the most at-risk patients.

At-risk patients include those with substance-use disorder or those being co-prescribed benzodiazepines, drugs used for treating anxiety, panic attacks, depression, insomnia and seizures.

The bill also would require doctors to educate their patients and another person the patient knows about naloxone and the dangers of opioids. If doctors fail to do so, they could be disciplined.

“This nation and state are facing many problems as a result of the current pandemic. Not the least of these is the epidemic within the pandemic,” Sen. Hutto said. ”... It is incumbent on state policy makers to help focus attention on the opioid epidemic by ensuring our most vulnerable citizens have access to naloxone therapy, a lifesaving drug.”

McMaster said, “South Carolina’s commitment to eradicating the opioid epidemic has been steadfast, but there’s more work to do. Increasing access to these life-saving therapeutics would be an important step in the right direction, and I hope to soon have the opportunity to sign this legislation into law.”

Despite concerns about the law’s enforcement and worries in some circles about those with opioid-use disorder being more likely to overdose knowing they have naloxone, this is legislation that has great potential to save lives.

In the words of DAODAS Director Sara Goldsby: “One of our most effective tools in combating the opioid crisis is naloxone, the overdose antidote that has saved thousands of South Carolinians from an untimely death. Our agency has supported vast distribution of this life-saving medication, and both House Bill 3366 and Senate Bill 571, which require prescribers to simply offer a prescription for naloxone to patients who are at risk, stand to shift dynamics in how prescribers address risk, and these two bills also stand to save lives.”

Online: https://thetandd.com

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March 6

The Index-Journal on the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus being detected in South Carolina:

As anniversaries go, it’s certainly not a happy one.

Some would say it feels more like years, not a single year, since the coronavirus crept into South Carolina. But March 6 marked the one-year anniversary of the Palmetto State’s first two cases.

Remember that? Chances are you do not. Sure, you remember that life as we knew it began to unravel in March, but you probably did not commit to memory that the first two cases — one in Kershaw County, the other in Charleston County — were identified on March 6, 2020.

Since that day, South Carolina has recorded nearly 450,000 cases and is approaching 8,000 confirmed pandemic-related deaths.

In our coverage area, the Lakelands, the numbers by themselves might not seem all that staggering when considering the state as a whole, or even the nation as a whole, but they should be alarming, at the very least.

Greenwood County is closing in on 7,000 cases and 143 deaths as of the release of the state Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Friday update.

Abbeville County is 64 cases shy of the 2,000 mark with 29 deaths as of Friday.

Saluda County is approaching 1,500 cases thus far, with 39 deaths.

In McCormick County, one of the state’s more rural counties, the number of cases is edging up toward 800 since March of last year. Its death toll is now at 17.

And across the lake, Laurens County isn’t all that far behind Greenwood County. It is approaching the 6,000 mark and has 141 deaths as of Friday’s DHEC report.

Really, it’s all rather sad and, we believe, largely avoidable.

Of course March 6 would be an anniversary marked by sickness and death, but the numbers did not have to be so high. And those are not numbers, readers; those are people. Those are our friends, parents, grandparents, children, fellow church members, business associates. They are our fellow South Carolinians.

This pandemic, the one we were once told would likely magically disappear by April 12, 2020 — Easter Sunday — has claimed more than half a million U.S. lives and wreaked havoc on our own state, our own community.

Vaccinations are indeed being dispensed. South Carolinians in Phase 1b can begin getting the vaccine come Monday. Numbers appear to be declining — a trend we certainly hope remains — and so perhaps the worst has come and gone. And yet, here we are with just two days less than a month to go before Easter Sunday 2021 arrives and we simply do not know when it will end, when cases will reach zero, when ventilators will not be used by COVID patients, when the dying caused by the pandemic will cease.

What a sad, sad anniversary March 6 is.

Get your vaccination. Wear your mask. Do the right thing, if not for yourself then for others. Show mutual respect. Save lives or, at the very least, prevent sickness from spreading.

Yes, it’s been a tough year on all of us. But think about it. A year or so is worth the sacrifice in order to have more happy anniversaries to celebrate in coming years.

Online: http://www.indexjournal.com