CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A lawmaker from the Lowcountry said he is received threatening messages after announcing plans to pre-file legislation that would ban assault weapons in South Carolina.
State Rep. Wendell Gilliard (D-Charleston) said during a press conference on Wednesday that the issue of gun violence has become a major problem – that is why he wants to pre-file a bill in November making it illegal to buy or own assault weapons in the state.
Rep. Gilliard noted that since 2009, more than 1,040 people across the country had been shot and killed by an assault weapon (assault-style rifle). He believes these types of weapons are meant only for the military.
“We will not be able to eradicate the entire gun problem, but we can certainly put laws in place to slow down the intentions of evil people,” said Rep. Gilliard.
But after his Wednesday afternoon press conference, Gilliard said he – and those who support his plan – have been threatened for their stance. Rep. Gilliard said he received multiple phone calls and social media messages.
“Everyone involved has been notified and those comments and any that might arise in the future will be forwarded to South Carolina Law Enforcement Chief Mark Keel for investigation and the FBI will be involved,” he said in a statement Thursday.
Rep. Gilliard said no one should stand by and watch women, men, and children be “slaughtered and then be targeted for their personal beliefs regarding assault rifles.”
“For those that think these threats will break my resolve, they are sadly mistaken,” he said.
Rep. Gilliard said he was informed by SLED’s chief that reports of threats or intimidation towards him or any of the people who stood in support of the legislation will be taken seriously and prosecuted if they are found to be credible or unlawful.
Merrill Chapman is the South Carolina Director of BRADY United Against Gun Violence. She attended Rep. Gilliard’s press conference and said she received multiple death threats via social media and email following her speech at the event.
Chapman said she is concerned for her safety but doesn’t want the threats to take away from her message that assault weapons should not be in the hands of civilians.
“What we want is a ban on military-style weapons because they’re for the military and that just makes sense. But we’re not going to take your guns away,” said Chapman.
According to SLED officials, there is not an open investigation.