Justice department grants $900,000 to SLED for NICS database

WASHINGTON (WCIV) -- The State Law Enforcement Division got a big helping hand from the justice department on Friday as it sets up the state's criminal background check database.

A release from the US Attorney's Office says SLED will get more than $900,000 in the form of a federal grant to improve South Carolina's National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

NICS is used to confirm that people trying to buy firearms have not been prohibited from owning them, including people who have been adjudicated mentally ill.

Leon Stavrinakis, one of the lawmakers who started the push for a state database, applauded the grant and the efforts of lawmakers in passing the Boland Bill.

"This is what good government looks like. When Democrats and Republicans work together for the common good, we not only can change lives, we can save them as well. The passage of this law, coupled with the funding to enforce it, will make our schools, streets, and communities much safer. This could not have been possible without the tireless efforts of the Attorney General and his staff, my colleagues in the legislature, and the courageous mothers at Ashley Hall School who fought so hard for this law. Because of this bipartisan effort, people like Alice Boland will never be able to legally purchase a firearm and put our children in danger again," he said.

After an incident with an armed woman outside a downtown Charleston girls school, South Carolina lawmakers mobilized an effort to create a statewide database to keep guns out of the hands of people who had been deemed mentally unfit by a court of law.

In early February, police say 28-year-old Alice Boland showed up outside the Ashley Hall School with a loaded handgun. Reports show that Boland pulled the trigger repeatedly while it was pointed at a school administrator, but it did not fire because the gun had not been loaded properly.

In the wake of Boland's arrest, it was learned that she had previously been in trouble for make threats to Congress and then-president George W. Bush. Those charges were later dropped after a court ruled that she was not competent to stand trial.

As a result, there were no records kept that would prevent Boland from buys a handgun, as she did just days before showing up at the school.

Since then, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers banded together and pushed the so-called Boland Bill through both chambers and to the governor's desk in a matter of weeks.

Even at the federal level, Sen. Lindsey Graham has introduced legislation to prosecute more cases of people who try to buy firearms while on the NICS list.

Gov. Nikki Haley signed the bill into law on May 3. The law ensures the names of residents declared mentally ill by a South Carolina court go into a federal database so a background check catches that. It's already illegal to sell guns to someone who is mentally ill. But the lack of reporting means gun shops don't get that information.

Since the law's passage, it's been up to SLED to create and maintain the database, but agency officials have not provided an update on where they are in that process until the Justice Department's announcement Friday.

Boland remains in a mental health facility in North Carolina.