SC panel passes bill to block mentally ill from buying guns - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

SC Senate panel passes bill to block mentally ill from buying guns

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By Robert Kittle
 
A bill to make it less likely that a mentally ill person could buy a gun got unanimous approval Tuesday from a South Carolina Senate subcommittee.
 
It's already against the law for people to buy a gun if they have been declared by a judge to be mentally ill or have been involuntarily committed to a mental health institution. But the state does not report those judgments or people who've been committed to a national database used to run background checks on people buying guns.
 
This bill would set up the system for the state to start reporting those names, keeping them from buying guns legally.
 
Why isn't the state already reporting those names? Sen. Greg Gregory, R-Lancaster, chairman of the subcommittee, says, "Well, the state has just not been in compliance. South Carolina, like most states in the union, has just neglected reporting these names to the database because there hasn't been a sense of urgency to do so. Course, that's changed in the last year after Newtown and other tragic incidents like that."
 
The bill is getting a big push after an incident in Charleston last month, when police say 28-year-old Alice Boland went to a gun store, bought a gun, and then drove to Ashley Hall private school. Police say she found staff members and started pulling the trigger, but the gun didn't fire. Boland had been declared insane in a 2005 case in which she was arrested for threatening the life of then-president Bush.
 
If the state had been reporting mental health adjudications, the woman would not have been allowed to buy the gun.
 
A House committee has already passed a similar bill, so the Senate subcommittee on Tuesday changed its bill to adopt the House version. Sen. Gregory says, "If we can get the Senate bill through committee and then the House bill comes over, then we won't have to cut the grass twice, so to speak. Everybody will already be familiar with the legislation. We can move the House bill. I think that there's a sense of urgency in getting this done because of what happened at Ashley Hall."
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