Richland sheriff and pawnbrokers hand out gun safety flyers

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Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott hands out gun safety pamphlets at the People’s Pawn Shop in Columbia on Wednesday, March 16, 2022.

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A flyer placed on a pawn shop’s gun display case is the latest idea to curb rising gun violence in Richland County.

“This here,” Sheriff Leon Lott said while waving a flyer at a Wednesday afternoon news conference, “can save a life.” The press conference took place at the People’s Pawn Shop on Assembly Street.

The leaflet, which lists six gun safety tips, is one part of a solution to gun violence that Lott and other police chiefs have been advocating for a year – community involvement to reduce the shots.

Anyone who purchases a firearm from a local Richland County pawnshop will receive the flyer. Any customer walking through the stores could also pick up the flyer. Already, federal law requires gun sellers to give buyers a lock at the time of purchase.

Blayd Fins, owner of People’s Pawn, said the flyer will “make things better in the community”.

Fins said he and other pawnshop owners had customers who bought guns and didn’t know how to secure them. It’s common for someone who recently purchased a gun to call the store asking for the gun’s serial number because the gun was stolen within days or weeks, Fins said.

“It’s important to secure guns as soon as you get home,” Fins said.

Lott was quick to credit Fins for coming up with the flyer idea and said other organizations were asking for flyers to distribute. The sheriff’s department also hopes to send the flyers to schools for students to take home with their parents.

A video of an MP explaining gun safety measures on the flyer will also be distributed to schools and other venues, Lott said.

The owners of 11 pawnshops were present at the press conference to announce the flyer distribution plan. These included Palmetto Gold and Pawn, Quick Cash, Pawn It Fast, Bonded Loan Office, and Best Deal Pawn and Gun.

Shootings have devastated Richland County. From 2020 to 2021, shootings have increased nearly 30% in the county, according to police data. In unincorporated Richland County, shooting murder cases doubled in 2021 from the previous year.

Stolen weapons count in shootings and murders in Richland County. In December, the state reported that an increase in stolen firearms from 2017 to 2021 has been accompanied by an increase in shootings, as well as a black market to peddle stolen firearms.

In the story, the state tracked a gun that was stolen or illegally traded. The gun had been used in six separate shootings from Rock Hill to Richland County, including two that killed two teenagers, one of whom was the mother of a month-old baby.

Lott and Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook implored communities to work with police to get known shooters off the streets. They also called on parents to keep their children away from guns.

Time and time again, the two pleaded with people to stop leaving guns in cars, where they are easily stolen.

To reduce shootings, the Columbia Police Department has focused on seizing stolen and illegally held firearms, as well as arresting people with prior felony convictions who are carrying firearms. .

Lott and Holbrook, along with other Midlands police chiefs, came together at the beginning of February with the Richland County Recreation Commission to develop ways the commission could help address gun violence.

In Colombia, which does not include the unincorporated county of Richland, 18 people have been shot and two have died this year. One such shooting occurred at an apartment complex popular with students. A gunman shot five people, killing 20-year-old Jamaica Dowling.

This story was originally published March 16, 2022 3:27 p.m.

David Travis Bland has won the SC Press Association’s 2017 Judson Chapman Award for Community Journalism. He joined The State in 2018. He writes about crime, law enforcement and the criminal justice system. He graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2010.
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