NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – On August 15th, an open carry law will go into effect in South Carolina. On Wednesday, state lawmakers met with law enforcement from across the Lowcountry to talk about what this could mean for the community as an uptick in gun violence continues.

Community leaders said that while they support Constitutional rights, gun violence is a crisis that needs to be considered.

Monica Jefferson, the Mother of Malcolm Jefferson who was a victim of gun violence in 2013, says her son was murdered only a few minutes into his 18th birthday. “‘I’m sorry to tell you, but your son has gone to be with Jesus.’ These are words that no mother should ever have to hear,” says Jefferson.

She says she is worried about the future of the Lowcountry as open carry becomes a reality.

“We live in a society where our children cannot go out and celebrate their birthdays, we live in a society where a 5-year-old can’t go outside in her yard and play before being murdered. We live in a society where a 14-year-old cannot go out to an event without being murdered. Something has got to give and we are talking about open carry—let me tell you, it is only going to get worse”.

Monica Jefferson

Charleston Police Department Chief Luther Reynolds says everyone that took part in the gun violence forum on Wednesday opposed the open carry bill becoming law. Now, he says we as a community must deal with the facts. 

Chief Reynolds says, “last year in 2020, was the worst year in the state of South Carolina for violent crime. The most shootings, the most deaths by far, and the year 2021 is going to be much worse.”

Both the public and those sitting on the panel for the forum expressed concern about the disproportionate impact of gun violence on black communities. Some black community members said that while they are Concealed Weapon Permit (CWP) holders, they will not open carry out of fear for what will happen to them as African Americans carrying a firearm.

North Charleston Police Chief Reggie Burgess, reminded the public of the lives lost in just the past three years to those without a CWP. He says the open carry law will put law enforcement lives at risk.

While the forum was simply a conversation, the public says they need solutions ahead of open carry hitting the streets. 

Representatives Wendell Gilliard and Marvin Pendarvis, who hosted the forum, say another community meeting will be held, called “Phase 2”. A date has not yet been set for the second forum, but Gilliard and Pendarvis said it would be before the open carry law goes into effect August 15.