Beaufort County has submitted 1,083 mental-health records to the S.C. Law Enforcement Division to comply with a year-old law intended to prevent those with mental illnesses from buying firearms.
The "Boland Bill" was named after a mentally ill Lady's Island woman, Alice Boland, who was charged with brandishing and attempting to fire a handgun outside a private school in Charleston last year.
The law is intended to ensure that people who have been found mentally ill by a state probate court -- as Boland has -- are reported to an FBI database used to determine whether a prospective buyer is eligible to buy firearms or explosives.
SLED has submitted more than 52,800 records spanning the past 10 years to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System, SLED spokeswoman Kathryn Richardson said. The number of records is greater than the number of people deemed mentally ill, though, as some people are involved in more than one case, according to Associate Probate Court Judge Heather Galvin.
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Based on the submissions, 136 in-state and 21 out-of-state firearm purchases have been denied, Richardson said. Additionally, 145 concealed-weapons permits were revoked, and 34 applications were denied, she added. SLED's data do not break down the denials by county, she said.
For the initial reporting, which by law was due Sunday, authorities had to provide the past 10 years of such records. After that, they are to be submitted continually, Richardson said.
"The records have not all come in at once. They've come throughout this entire time period, and we've worked as quickly as we can," Richardson said. "It's just been a matter of developing a process and implementing it."
State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, helped craft some of the language of the law and said including some mentally ill among other offenders who are not allowed to purchase firearms is "entirely appropriate."
"I think the number (of records sent to SLED) validates the concerns many of us voiced when the bill was being debated," Davis said.
The law closes loopholes and makes clear who should be reported to the national database, according to 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone.
"I think this cleans up a good bit of the problems in some of those previous statutes, and it's not just a blanket provision against mental illness. ... The definitions are very clear," Stone said.
The state law was created shortly after Boland, 30, was charged with attempting to fire a .22-caliber gun outside Ashley Hall girls school in downtown Charleston last year. Authorities say she bought the gun from the Walterboro Gun Shop on Feb. 1, 2013, three days before the incident.
The gun was loaded when Boland pulled the trigger, but didn't fire because there was no round in the chamber, authorities have said.
After Boland's arrest, court documents revealed she had a history of mental illness. In 2005, she was charged with threatening the lives of President George W. Bush and other federal officials. A judge declared Boland mentally incompetent, and the charges were dismissed when she pleaded guilty by reason of insanity in 2009.
Nonetheless, Boland cleared the background check when she bought the handgun from the Walterboro store. Authorities said her court history had not been reported.
While South Carolina's law takes effect, a federal bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, also in reaction to the Boland case, has stalled. Graham's bill also seeks to prevent the mentally ill who are a danger to themselves or others from purchasing firearms.
Boland has been charged by the state with attempted murder, two counts of pointing a firearm, unlawful carrying of a firearm and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. She is being held at the Al Canon Detention Center in North Charleston in lieu of $900,000 bond, according to the jail log.
Attempts to reach the 9th Circuit Solicitor's Office, which is prosecuting the state charges, were unsuccessful.
Boland also has been indicted on four federal charges: making a false statement to purchase a firearm; illegally possessing a firearm because of her status as a person who had been previously committed to a mental institution or who had been adjudicated as mentally incompetent; possession of a firearm in a school zone and attempted discharge of a firearm in a school zone.
That case was sealed in July 2013 by the U.S. District Court in Charleston, so more information on the case will not be available until the proceedings are over, said U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman Beth Drake.
- Bills to help region have gained approval, June 5, 2014
- Feds to give SC money to improve gun background checks, Sept. 6, 2013
- Gov. Nikki Haley signs bill requiring reporting of mental illness to buy guns, May 3, 2013