COLUMBIA — Legislation that would give federal authorities information about people who have been determined by a court to have mental problems was given final approval Thursday by South Carolina lawmakers.
Legislators began discussing ways to address gun safety and mental illness after the February arrest of Alice Boland, a woman authorities said had unsuccessfully tried to fire a handgun at officials at Ashley Hall, a private girls’ school in downtown Charleston.
No one was hurt, and the gun didn’t go off. It was later revealed that Boland had previously pleaded not guilty by reason of mental incompetence to threatening to kill President George W. Bush. That plea didn’t appear in a federal background check when Boland bought the gun because South Carolina doesn’t share that information.
Boland, who faces state and federal charges, has disorders including schizophrenia, court papers show.
It’s already illegal to sell guns to people with known mental illness. While more than three dozen states share some information with the federal government for background check purposes, others have been allowed to opt out of reporting.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., cited Boland’s case as an example of why changes were needed in reporting information. That call was also mirrored by state officials such as Attorney General Alan Wilson, a lifetime National Rifle Association member who said events such as Boland’s arrest and the mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn., showed the need for change. On Thursday, the Republican stressed in a statement that the soon-to-be law wouldn’t hinder the rights of law-abiding citizens to own guns.
“It simply ensures that people who are not lawfully allowed to carry a gun cannot get one,” Wilson said. “It also enables those who have recovered from their mental illness and are no longer a danger to themselves or their community to fully regain their Second Amendment rights.”
Gov. Nikki Haley will sign the bill in the next few days, spokesman Rob Godfrey said.