Stavrinakis: Only 6 SC names submitted to federal guns database

By Sam

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - State Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, flanked by parents and children of Ashley Hall School,{}discussed the new bill that would require the state to report people deemed mentally unfit to have a gun to the federal database Monday.

The parents included Michel Faliero, the woman who drafted the letter sent to a dozen local, state and federal lawmakers, and Catherine Poston, who watched from the carpool line as Alice Boland paced back and forth in front of the school with a gun.

"My daughter was having nightmares after the fact and I couldn't explain to her why that was okay. We wanted to make sure we could tell our children we would not let things like this happen again," Poston said.

"We are trying to use Alice Boland as the example and make sure someone like her cannot buy a gun in South Carolina," Faliero said.

According to Stavrinakis, the bill focuses only on reporting to the federal background check database, requiring agencies to send information on people who have been adjudicated mentally deficient to the FBI.

The bill would mandate county courts keep a database shared only with SLED, the Judicial Department and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

The database would{}record anyone who's been "adjudicated as a mental defective", or involuntarily committed to a mental institution. It would not include information on diagnoses or treatments.

He said research into South Carolina's reporting mechanism revealed the state has one of the least-effective programs in the country, adding that only six people from South Carolina have been reported to the federal database.

"It's worth noting that several other national tragedies were done by mentally ill people," Stavrinakis said. "If they had been in South Carolina, they would have been able to do the same thing."

Stavrinakis said there would be some conflicts with HIPAA, the federal medical records privacy law, but said cases in which there were public findings of incompetence should not be an issue because those rulings are part of public record.

Boland's 2009 pleading of not guilty by reason of insanity is public record and should have been reason enough to prevent her from purchasing a gun, Stavrinakis said.

He said the same thing happened at Virginia Tech, adding that state lawmakers there closed loopholes that allowed Seung-Hui Cho to purchase guns before killing 32 people and wounding 17 others.

"We're not waiting around for the next tragedy," he said.

Faliero, who has four daughters at Ashley Hall School, said she was "thrilled" at the response parents have received from lawmakers.

She said three of her daughters were walking out of the school at the time Boland showed up outside the school. They were quickly ushered back inside and put under lockdown, she said, which is something that happens a few times a year.

"Ashley Hall's response was perfect," she said.

It was only later that parents and students learned more about Boland, the gun, and her background, which led to difficult questions from children.

"It's really the aftermath - what are they doing?" Faliero asked. "I think a lot of people are finding out for the first time how easy it is to buy a gun."

Poston said she pulled into the line to pick up her daughter and saw Boland, who she described as someone who could have been a parent or a babysitter by her clothing but looked upset.

"She was agitated and nervous," she said.

Poston said she watched as teachers sent the students back inside the school and then it dawned on her that Boland was holding a gun.

"Are my windows bulletproof? I was frozen trying to figure out what to do," she said, recalling the thoughts she had. "I was more worried about my daughter who was on the sidewalk."

Stavrinakis said the bill was about preventing a similar scare.

"This is bigger than just one school," he said. {}

Stavrinakis is working with Reps. Eddie Tallon and Rick Quinn as well as Attorney General Alan Wilson and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham to close loopholes at the state and federal levels that allow certain people access to guns.

While the bill does seek to limit a person's access to guns who has been labeled mentally defective, the bill is not a one-way street. There is an appeals process for people to regain the right to possess a gun legally. That process includes filing mental health and substance abuse paperwork, a $150 fee and a hearing.

The bill is expected to be introduced this week.

"Frankly, I don't care what it costs. It's worth saving lives," he said.

Meanwhile, Boland remains interred at the Al Cannon Detention Center on a $900,000 bond. Court dates have been scheduled for the end of the month.