SC AG: Gun legislation 'directly related' to Boland case

By Sam

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCIV) Two state representatives will introduce next week a bill{}linking mental health and gun violence. The state Attorney General's office said it was "directly related" to the Alice Boland case.

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Eddie Tallon (R-Spartanburg) and Rick Quinn (R-Lexington), is being supported by state Attorney General Alan Wilson, as well as members of law enforcement, the General Assembly and mental health professionals, who will attend the bill's unveiling next Tuesday.

Tallon said Thursday that the bill was really a mental illness bill.

"Basically, I want to keep the guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and certainly not restrict guns in any other way," Tallon said.

He went on to say that South Carolina is one of 13 states that do not currently participate in the National Instant Background Check System program, adding that his bill addresses that issue.

"I think we all had a wake up call last week at Ashley Hall," Tallon said.

Tallon, a retired State Law Enforcement Division agent, said the Sheriff's Association contacted him last week asking for his help in drafting the legislation.

Wilson's office said the Boland case showed the Attorney General that mental health and gun violence were connected issues that needed to be addressed together. Court records show Boland was diagnosed with schizophrenia and had been prescribed numerous antipsychotics between 2002 and 2009.

"Last week, the potential for another Newtown tragedy hit way too close to home. It would not have been prevented by restricting the rights of law abiding citizens. But it could have been prevented by communicating, identifying, treating, and prohibiting persons such as the suspect in this case from legally purchasing firearms," Wilson said.

"State and federal leaders must address the mental health epidemic by treating the problem, not by eroding or ignoring the Second Amendment. There is no reason for South Carolina to remain one of six states that has no barriers to prevent the mentally ill from purchasing a firearm. That is why I will continue working with legislative, law enforcement, and mental health leaders on this issue.

"Taking guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens will not keep our children safe. Keeping guns out of the wrong hands will. With someone such as the suspect arrested at Ashley Hall, who had earlier threatened to kill President Bush and law enforcement officials, red flags should have gone up and stayed up. She should never have been able to purchase a gun. However, she did. That is why her story highlights the need for mental health reform, not overreaching gun control."

The announcement means that bills on both the state and federal level are being introduced{}as a result of{}of the Boland incident.

On Wednesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham said he would be introducing gun legislation that would prevent "people like Alice Boland" from purchasing a gun. Graham was outraged when he learned that Boland had threatened the life of a president and then pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in 2009 before purchasing a gun in Walterboro in 2013.

Before Graham's announcement, a group of 56 parents from Ashley Hall School wrote a letter to a dozen lawmakers, including Graham, bringing the incident with Boland to their attention.

In it they asked lawmakers to "do something to prevent the Alice Bolands of the world from buying guns in South Carolina." The parents said they are a group of bi-partisan people who support the Second Amendment, but are worried about the safety of their children.

The parents said in the letter that the incident at the school was a glaring example of how out of control gun rights have become.

Boland, a 28-year-old woman with a history of mental issues and violent outbursts, was arrested Feb. 4 after she showed up at Ashley Hall School with a loaded gun. She pulled the trigger several times, but the gun did not fire because there was not a round in the chamber.

She is currently being held in the Al Cannon Detention Center on a $900,000 bond.

Wilson will be joined at the news conference at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, February 19 by State Representatives Tallon and Quinn, other legislators and law enforcement leaders.