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 in 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 police said the gun didn’t go off because Boland had incorrectly loaded it. But the issue sparked interest when it was 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 went to buy the guy she took to Ashley Hall because South Carolina doesn’t share that information.
Boland now faces state and federal charges. Court papers note that she has disorders including schizophrenia and Asperger’s syndrome and had been ordered to get mental health treatment and evaluations.
It’s already illegal to sell guns to people with known mental illness. And while more than three dozen states already share some information with the federal government for background check purposes through the National Crime Information Center, others have been allowed to opt out of reporting.
Boland’s case also became part of the federal debate on gun control legislation, with U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., holding up her case as an example of why changes were needed in reporting information.
That call was also mirrored by state officials like Attorney General Alan Wilson, a lifetime National Rifle Association member who said events like Boland’s arrest and the mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn., showed the need for change. On Thursday, the Republican stressed in a statement provided to The Associated Press 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 spokesman Rob Godfrey told AP that the governor would sign the bill in the next few days.
Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP