Representative Leon Stavrinakis (D-Charleston) is joining Republican lawmakers in a bill help identify persons who are prohibited from purchasing firearms because of mental illness.
The bill, to be filed this week, was prompted by a recent attempted shooting at Ashley Hall, an all-girls school in Charleston.
That is where Stavrinakis held his press conference, surrounded by parents of the school.
The State Attorney General Alan Wilson and Republican Representatives Rick Quinn (R-Lexington) and Eddie Tallon (R-Spartanburg) will also announce the legislation in Columbia Tuesday morning.
The bill will require South Carolina to report relevant mental health information to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to identify persons who are prohibited from purchasing firearms. This will include people determined mentally ill by the courts, in need of inpatient or outpatient treatment, or found “not guilty by reason of insanity.”
In the Ashley Hall incident, suspect Alice Boland bought a semi-automatic pistol and allegedly pointed at school officials and pulled the trigger. Luckily for them, the loaded gun was not ready to fire.
“She never should have been able to purchase a gun, ” Attorney General Wilson said in a statement.
That is because Boland had a history of threatening behaviors, a mental illness diagnosis and in one case pled not guilty by reason of insanity.
Boland did buy the gun –legally–because her charges were dismissed, there was no shared record of her treatment for mental illness, and there is a gap in the state’s reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Stavrinakis says, “We since came to learn that we have one of the least effective, least comprehensive reporting systems in the United States. I think we have currently six people in South Carolina who have been reported due to mental illness as being ineligible to purchase a handgun.”
He says the new bill “will close this loophole and ensure that mentally ill people, people who are under current law unfit to buy and possess handguns will no longer be able to do that.”
Ashley Hall parents are pushing for action, relieved that their school did not become a mass-murder scene like Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.
Michelle Faliero, the mother of four girls who attend the school, told South Carolina Radio Network that her children have lots of questions that must be answered:
“The kids asking ‘what happened, can it happen again, how did that happen, what are we doing?’ I think Ashley Hall’s response was perfect and we are all doing what we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again, ” Faliero said.
Sheree Bernardi, WTMA in Charleston contributed to this report.