Sen. Lindsey Graham to fight to keep guns from mentally ill

gsmith@islandpacket.comFebruary 13, 2013 

Alice Boland, 28, of Beaufort

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said today he will propose legislation to prevent a repeat of last week’s incident where a Lady’s Island woman who once pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity passed a background check and purchased a gun that she used to fire at an administrator and a teacher at a Charleston school.

Graham said he and other members of Congress should have known that it was possible for people like Alice Boland to legally get a gun and must now work to fix the system.

In 2005, Boland was indicted after she was accused of threatening to kill President George W. Bush, but the charges were dropped after she pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

"To me this is Exhibit A of a broken system," Graham said. "How can it be that the background check would allow her to buy a gun? How could it be that someone in the United States who pleads not guilty by reason of insanity is able to pass a background check and buy a gun? And thank God the gun didn’t go off."

Graham said a plan by Democrats to expand background checks won't work because Boland was able to get a gun.

Confusion exists on whether federal law already prohibits those like Boland who have a history of mental illness from purchasing guns.

Graham said his understanding is that Boland purchased the gun legally, and the Walterboro gun store that sold her the gun did not break any laws.

Graham said he has more work to do to determine how to limit firearms' accessibility to mentally ill people who are violent versus mentally ill people who are not violent and pose no threat.

At the very least, Graham said, those like Boland who have pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity should have no access.

"Let’s find a way to make sure Alice Boland never gets a gun. I think we all would agree that one gun in the hand of Ms. Boland is one too many," he said.

Efforts are also under way on the state level to limit access.

S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson, along with the State Law Enforcement Division, lawmakers and law enforcement officials, are working now on a plan to more stringently limit firearm access for those with mental illnesses, Mark Powell, spokesman for the attorney general, said.

A roll-out date for the plan has not been set.

For more, check back later with The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette and follow reporter Gina Smith at twitter.com/GinaNSmith.

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