Mental health expert: Background check system flawed

By Nikki

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) How Alice Boland was able to purchase a gun several days before she pulled it on students and teachers at a Lowcountry school remains a big mystery.

"(It's) extremely frightening that somebody would walk up to a group of children and teachers and just lift a gun and just start trying to shoot," said Department of Mental Health Deputy Director Mark Binkley.

In the mid 1990s, the FBI created a database called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Binkley believes the system is far from perfect.

By law, licensed gun dealers are required to use NICS when checking up on a potential gun buyer.

"The NICS database contains all the federal law enforcement databases which contains all the records of federal convictions, but they are supposed to contain the record of state actions that would lead to prohibition of gun ownership," said Binkley.

About five years ago, Binkley says the federal government learned some unsettling news in a study.

"They determined a lot of records aren't getting into the national database," he said. "Right about the same time this study came out, Virginia Tech happened."

Without those records, Binkley says it's easier for a gun to get into the hands of the wrong person.

"South Carolina is in the majority of the states that currently does not systematically send in their civil commitment records or their other mental health disqualifiers to NICS," he said.

In light of this recent close call involving Boland, Binkley believes the current system needs accountability.

"The feds have been pushing real hard since 2007 to try to get the states to send in their records -- particularly their mental health records," said Binkley.