FLORENCE, S.C. – Republican Tom Rice came out this week in support of red flag laws if they are drafted correctly.

Red flag laws allow police to take firearms from those who family members or police think may pose a danger to themselves or others.

Speaking at a town hall meeting in Florence, Rice said South Carolina already had a red flag law.

“I’m not against a red flag law,” Rice said. “It’s got to be right. It can’t be too restrictive.”

As a lawyer in South Carolina, Rice was obligated to do a certain amount of free legal work, called pro bono work in the legal field. He was assigned to work several civil commitment hearings as part of that work.

When someone is committed by a loved one, within 10 days, a hearing must be held to determine whether the committed person must must remain committed.

“I’ll tell you this: The people walking out of those hearings? They didn’t need to have a gun,” Rice said. “A lot of those people didn’t need to have a gun. I would have been scared to death if they had a gun.”

South Carolina’s red flag law allows police to take a gun away until the person with a suspected mental illness is in a better state of mind.

“I support that,” Rice said.

Rice is not the only Republican to support the idea of a national red flag law.

He said Sen. Lindsey Graham from South Carolina and President Donald Trump have indicated support.

‘Here’s the Republican answer to these [mass] shootings; we've got to do a better job of keeping guns out of the hands of those that are mentally ill,” Rice said. “That’s what are our answer is.”

As far as the drafting of a law, Rice said, the time limit for a hearing would have to be “very” short to receive his support.

Rice identified himself as a gun rights advocate.

One person at the town hall said he believed that guns were the only weapon blamed for the crime.

Rice said he agreed.

He also said he felt people should have to go through a licensed dealer to purchase a firearm.

Buying from a licensed dealer would necessitate a background check.

“I’m the only Republican that I know of that has a bill out to strengthen background checks right now,” Rice said. “What my bill says is search the doggone N-DEX file. The FBI may search the N-DEX file.”

Rice said the FBI maintains three criminal databases, only two of which are searched during a background check. The third one, called N-DEX, was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“N-DEX is far more comprehensive than the other two,” Rice said. “Law enforcement from all over the country contribute to this thing.”

Rice said the FBI had admitted that if it had looked at the N-DEX system, Charleston church shooter Dylan Roof wouldn’t have been allowed to purchase a gun.

His bill was filed after the shooting at the Charleston church.

He added that if he wanted to buy a gun from his son two years after purchase, he didn’t think he should have to go through a background check.

Rice said he added the “may” language to the bill to appease the FBI.

He said the National Rifle Association was neutral on his bill.

Rice added the bill was bipartisan with 20 co-sponsors but he couldn’t get a vote on the bill in the Democrat-controlled House.

Rice also addressed a number of other issues at the town hall:

>> On holding a town hall:

“Last term, I was 14th out of 535 congressmen and senators in the number of town halls. I did 48 in two years … I really try hard to make myself available. This’ll be my fifth town hall in the last two days. This is my sixth event today. This is my only town hall. We actually did a veterans event in Horry County this morning … We did a Rotary event. We did a chamber of commerce event. We went to Marion County and toured a bunch of houses that are being replaced from the storms and saw a lot of very happy people that are finally back in their houses from Hurricane Matthew. We’ve still got a long way to go but we’re pushing very hard on that. There’s a lot of interesting things happening. I just want to make myself available. My title is representative and I can’t represent you if I don’t know what your opinions are…”

>> On deciding to run for office the first time:

“I was a tax lawyer and a CPA [certified professional accountant] in my private life for 25 years. After I retired, I was looking around and I said, ‘I think the country is headed in a bad direction and I feel like people don’t have the opportunity that I had when I graduated from college.’ My kids were graduating from college and they couldn’t find a job and I said, ‘This is known as a land of opportunity — that’s my favorite name for it— and I want to help restore that … When I ran the first time [in 2012], what I felt like was wrong in our country in terms of our economy was that we weren’t competitive internationally. These things weren’t put on us by other people. They were put on us by ourselves. We were putting weights around our own neck, holding our own selves back.”

>> On other lawyers’ views of tax lawyers:

“As a tax lawyer, other lawyers look down on me. Tax lawyers aren’t real lawyers. We don’t do a whole lot of litigation.”

>> On partisanship in the media:

“It’s not like it was when I was growing up … When I was growing up and living in Myrtle Beach, we got two channels … We had [NBC’s] Chet Huntley and [ABC’s] Ted Koppel and that was your news. You got [national] news for a half-hour a day and you read the paper. We all pretty much read the same thing. We all pretty much heard the same thing. It’s not that way anymore … What I like to say is — It’s unfortunate, I don’t like to say it but it’s true — Walter Cronkite has been replaced by Twitter. Today, you pick your team and you watch that news. And ne’er the twain shall meet. Those guys make money off of stirring up conflict. I want to tell you that as dysfunctional as Washington appears on TV, it’s pretty dysfunctional but it’s not as bad as it is on TV.”

>> On the state of the economy:

“Look at where we are right now. I mean 3.7% national unemployment, sub 4.0% unemployment in South Carolina, wages on the lower end are growing at rates not seen in decades, records lows ever in African American unemployment, Hispanic unemployment. This is a pretty good time. Opportunity has been restored. If you want to get a job in South Carolina, you can have a job really quick. I’m proud of what we’ve gotten done nationally … I helped get that Dillon Inland Port where it is and I’m proud of that. Marion County, South Carolina, when I took office unemployment was about 14%. When Donald Trump took office … it was 9.6% unemployment. Today, it’s 4.6%. Part of that is that Dillon Inland Port — 1,500 jobs in two years … 1,500 jobs is a 2.5% drop in the unemployment rate. It’s not rocket science, it’s not magic. It’s a strategy and hard work.”

>> On President Donald Trump’s improvement of the economy:

“There was an economist, a guy from Harvard [University] named Michael Porter. He’s a worldwide recognized expert on competitive theory. He’s written textbooks [that are] used in colleges across the country. Countries hire him to advise them on how to structure their economy to beat us … He was worried about America. He felt like we needed to do some things to make ourselves more competitive. He had a menu of things. I saw him one day on CNBC. I had won [election in 2012] but I hadn’t taken office. I flew up to Harvard and met with the guy. He had a menu of things … The first thing on the list was tax reform, second was regulatory reform, third was trade agreements … I don’t know that Donald Trump has ever heard of Michael Porter. I don’t know if Donald Trump has ever seen Michael Porter’s list— I kind of doubt he has — but I’ll tell this, if you look at priorities, tax reform, regulatory reform, trade reform — which we’re in the middle of right now — high-skilled immigration, infrastructure, he’s going right down that list. If you look at the two years Donald Trump’s been in office, people say this [the economic improvement] has been for the 1%, that’s garbage … A lot of the things that we’ve done have mattered to a lot of real people and not just to the 1%. I’m really proud of what we’ve gotten done.”

>> On the need to “rebalance” trade:

"He [Porter] said and it’s true that after World War II we were the last industrial power standing. We actually accepting one-sided trade agreements. We dropped all our tariff barriers and allowed everybody else to keep theirs as a part of a plan to lift the rest of the world and it worked. Guess what, that was 80 years ago. It’s time to rebalance.”

>> On immigration policy:

“Most countries in the world use immigration to make themselves more competitive. They way they do that is they say that if you’ve got a skill set or an education background that we need then you can come to the front of the line. Canada? Sixty-seven percent of their immigration is based on skill set. Mexico? It’s about 60%. You know what ours is? Twelve percent.

>> On the need for infrastructure improvements:

“You can’t be competitive in the world if you don’t have world-class infrastructure.”

>> On some of Trump’s comments:

“People ask me all the time, ‘how do you stand some of the things he says?’ He says some pretty outrageous things. Some of them bother the heck out of me but his policies are making this country competitive and I believe are a big reason why we’re in this time of opportunity that we haven’t had in a long time. I helped write that [Trump] tax package and I’m flat proud of that result.”

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Government and Poltics Reporter

I cover the city of Florence, the county of Florence, the state legislative delegation of Florence County and surrounding areas, and the federal delegation representing the Pee Dee for the Morning News.

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