COLUMBIA SC — Attorney General Alan Wilson announced Tuesday a bill he said would go a long way to restrict the ability of dangerously mentally ill people to purchase firearms in South Carolina.
This is not a gun restriction law it is nothing more than a reporting law, Wilson said. I dont know how any rational, reasonable person could be against this.
The bill would for the first time require the states judiciary to report to SLED and then to an already existing federal database the names of those who have been deemed mentally ill in a court of law.
For years, federal law has banned that category of the mentally ill from buying a firearm, but since the state does not now forward that information to the federal government, those names arent flagged when someone buys a gun from a licensed gun dealer.
As of January, South Carolina had 750 federal licensed firearms dealers, ranging from pawn shops to gun shops to Walmarts. These licensed dealers by law already must do a quick background check on anyone who buys a gun. Convicted felons and other potentially dangerous people are quickly identified and banned from buying a gun.
Although 38 other states send information on people judged mentally ill to this federal data base, South Carolina does not.
More than a dozen law enforcement officers and lawmakers appeared with Wilson, a Republican, at his State House press conference. They included Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, and Rep. Eddie Tallon, R-Spartanburg, a former SLED agent.
It remains to be seen whether gun rights advocates many of whom say any efforts at gun control are the first steps by the government to confiscate all weapons will oppose the measure. However, since the December massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., polls have shown more Americans favor background checks.
Phil Bailey, Senate Democratic Caucus director, called Wilsons proposal a common sense measure and said most people Republican or Democrat will likely go along with it.
Baileys counterpart, Senate Republican Caucus director Wesley Donehue, predicted likely passage with strong bipartisan support. We know from a lot of these mass shootings its more of a mental illness issue than a gun issue.
Tallon, Quinn, House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, and several other House lawmakers introduced the bill late Tuesday.
The measure comes in the wake of a mentally ill woman who earlier this month showed up at a Charleston private school with a loaded gun she purchased from a gun shop. Had the check system been in place, she likely would not have been able to make the purchase.
According to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, gun deaths take a toll on South Carolinians. In 2011:
251 people were shot and killed by others
421 committed suicide with a gun
23 people were shot and killed by accident
Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.