Gregory co-sponsors gun bill

Proposed legislation would strengthen background checks for mentally ill

Sen. Greg Gregory (R-16) is among the trio of state legislators taking aim at a measure that requires South Carolina to comply with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database to ensure proper background checks on the mentally ill before they can buy guns.

Gregory, along with sens. John Courson (R-20) and Chip Campsen (R-43), filed S.413 on Wednesday, Feb. 20.

The bill would require judges to submit to SLED the names of people adjudicated to be mentally ill and unsafe to own a gun.

SLED, in turn, will transmit those names to the national database.

That way, when someone buys a gun, their name can be submitted to the federal NICS database to verify if they have been deemed mentally ill by the Palmetto State judicial system.

Right now, the state doesn’t participate much in that database.

Campsen said in a release, issued Feb. 20, the recent violence around the country has shown the importance of keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.

“Sometimes we pretend like crises we see on TV can’t happen here at home, but last week’s incident at Ashley Hall shows otherwise,” Campsen said. “This is a commonsense measure we must pass to protect our families.”

The students, their parents and staff of Ashley Hall, the state’s only all-preparatory school, which is in downtown Charleston, have all been on edge since an armed woman tried to kill two of its faculty members Feb. 4.

That woman – 28-year-old Alice Boland – is jailed on charges of attempted murder, unlawful carrying of a firearm and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.

Despite a documented history of mental illness, including being charged with threatening former President George W. Bush and members of Congress in 2005, Boland was able to buy a Taurus PT-22 pistol from a Walterboro gun dealer on Feb. 1.

Federal ATF officials say Boland passed through the proper procedures by filling out a federal background check at the time that was approved.

However, a gun buyer in the United States is not required to disclose a history of mental illness unless they’ve been committed to an institution or found “mentally defective” by a judge.

Gregory said the proposed legislation will give an added level of protection to South Carolinians to keep that from happening again.

He said NICS compliance to ensure seriously mentally ill people can’t buy firearms is “low-hanging fruit that legislators on both sides of the gun debate should be able to pick together.”

“The safety of South Carolinians is of utmost importance to us, especially when it comes to gun violence,” Gregory said. “This bill will be another step in preventing a tragedy similar to those in Aurora and Newtown from happening.”

Courtesy of The Lancaster News.