- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 1, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A bill aimed at making it easier for South Carolinians with concealed weapon permits to travel back and forth to Georgia received final approval Wednesday after senators ended a filibuster.

The Senate’s 35-3 vote came after Sen. Marlon Kimpson agreed to pull roughly 80 amendments he had proposed to block the bill, which passed the House in April 2015.

Kimpson, D-Charleston, was protesting legislators not taking up measures designed to close a background check loophole that allowed Dylann Roof to buy the gun police say he used to kill nine parishioners at a historic black church in Charleston a year ago.

In exchange for allowing the vote, Kimpson has been guaranteed a hearing about the loophole this summer in Charleston, where he’ll play a central role as a panelist, and at least one in Columbia next year on the re-introduced bill.

“We consider today a win,” he said. “The goal is to play chess.”

Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin said he’s giving no promises on the bill’s chances next year, except to pledge he’ll go to the hearing “with an open mind.”

“I get it that I was probably too negative,” Martin, R-Pickens, said about previously denying Kimpson’s request for a hearing.

The reciprocity bill was being pushed mainly by residents in Aiken County, who travel daily into Augusta, Georgia.

South Carolina recognizes concealed weapon permits from 22 states, including most in the Southeast. Advocates argue that not having reciprocity with the state’s western neighbor is a real inconvenience.

“For those of us who live along the Georgia border, this has become a very big issue. … There are lots of folks over there multiple times per day,” Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey said about the Augusta area.

South Carolina’s concealed weapon law requires states given reciprocity to have at least the same requirements to carry a concealed gun as South Carolina. But Georgia doesn’t require training for a permit, so opponents of the exception, including Kimpson, argued that allowing Georgians with permits to bring their guns into South Carolina would be unsafe.

“Georgia’s not the Wild West,” said Massey, R-Edgefield.

Martin said it’s a frequent request from constituents.

“People ask, ‘Why can’t you fix that?’ It is the most sought-after change in our law for CWP (concealed weapon permit) holders,” he said.

Kimpson has opposed the measure since senators voted three weeks ago to give it priority debate status.

He was fighting for legislation that would extend the time allowed for reviewing criminal records before approving a gun purchase.

Roof’s drug arrest in February 2015 should have prevented him from buying a gun, but data entry errors meant a background check didn’t produce the pertinent details in time. Federal law gives the FBI three business days to tell a gun dealer if someone can’t legally buy a firearm. Once that window expires, as in Roof’s case, the sale can proceed by default.

Kimpson said he recognizes the loophole legislation will face plenty of opposition next year.

“I have proven my ability to stop legislation. If we do a song and dance, I’ll go back to work to stop every gun bill that expands rights,” he said. “My goal is to craft something people can live with.”

Other bills proposed by Kimpson that will die when the session ends Thursday would require people to register their guns and acquire a permit before buying a gun. Those two will not be given a hearing.

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