'Boland Bill' filed, could be fast-tracked in Columbia

By Eric

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCIV) -- A bill designed to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill is being fast-tracked in the Statehouse.

The bill was filed Tuesday and lists eight sponsors, but the supporters don't stop there. Former attorney general Charlie Condon is a big backer of this bill; he called it progressive. He also said he was surprised at how many holes were exposed as it was being drafted.

South Carolina has caught on, according to Condon, and not a moment too soon. He said approving the 'Boland Bill' would be a big step for the state legislature.

"I think the prognosis for this passing the General Assembly is really good. It will certainly pass the House I think, quickly," Condon said.

The bill promises to report people with histories of violent crime and those adjudicated mentally incompetent to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System -- the NICS.

But before that can be done the State Law Enforcement Division, the bill says, will have to compile this information in a place of its own.

"It is true there will be a new database because you have to have that to keep track of people," said Condon. "But as I read the proposed legislation, there are strict controls on who has access to it, so it will then go to this federal government database."

Carrying out these requirements could come with a heavy cost. Condon says it's money well spent but counties and{}clerks of court{}may struggle the most with this new process of reporting.

"There's going to be a cost at some point; there's going to be a price tag put on this. I suspect the price tag on the face of it is maybe going to surprise some people," Condon said.

Then if the bill winds up on the governor's desk, Gov. Nikki Haley can veto it. Last week she said she was not ready to make a change to the laws that led to Alice Boland's gun purchase.

"If you're going to have instant background checks and prohibit people who are mentally ill from having weapons, it makes no sense not to have that information in the database," said Condon.

The state Senate also has a bill to consider filed by Sens. Campsen, Gregory and Courson. It has similar requirements as its House companion.

"Recent violence around the country has proven how important it is that we keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill," said Campsen. "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. This is a commonsense measure we must pass to protect our families."

If it passes the House and Senate, and is signed by the governor, the bill could be up and running by the summer.

"Compliance with NICS to prevent seriously mentally ill people from buying guns is low hanging fruit that legislators on both sides of the gun debate should be able to pick together," said Gregory.