COLUMBIA, SC — The State Law Enforcement Division has revoked 65 concealed weapons permits since October and denied another 12 applications because of mental-health issues, SLED Chief Mark Keel said Friday.
Also, background checks have thwarted 55 attempts in South Carolina to buy guns by people with mental-heath issues 49 by in-state residents and six by out-of-state visitors.
Last year, the federal Justice Department gave SLED nearly $1 million to improve its background checks. S.C. lawmakers also passed a law that would share South Carolinas mental-health information with federal authorities to help ensure that those with mental-health issues would be detected in background checks.
The issue gained momentum when Alice Boland was arrested last year after attempting to shoot employees at Ashley Hall, a private, all-girls school in Charleston. Boland was found mentally ill previously, but she had been able to purchase a handgun.
Overall, there are 228,212 active concealed-weapon permits in South Carolina, including 5,000 issued so far this year by SLED.
To weed out permit holders with mental issues, SLED agents are combing through involuntary commitment orders, dating back 10 years, and cross-referencing them with the agencys permit-holder list. Anyone with an involuntary commitment order automatically loses his or her permit, Keel said.
It is a slow process, Keel told legislators Friday, because many courthouses have to sort through paper records. SLED is sending the information to the FBIs National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which gun stores use to run background checks on anyone trying to buy a gun.
Its doing what it was intended to do, Keel said of the background checks, which started Oct. 1.
Some state lawmakers including state Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, a candidate for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate have tried to eliminate the states concealed weapons permit law, saying South Carolinians have a 2nd Amendment right to carry guns without asking the governments permission.
Asked whether the 65 revocations because of mental-health issues were a concern, Bright said he would need to know more details about each case before he could offer an opinion.
Its something you have to be very careful with, he said. Anytime you take someones right to self-defense, that is a serious issue.
State Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, one of the authors of the 2013 law sharing the states mental health information with federal authorities, said the revocations prove the state needs to have the permits.
I think that that will make us all safer, he said.
Concealed weapons permits In South Carolina
228,212: Concealed weapon permits
8,937: Permit applications received so far this year
5,059: Permits issued so far this year
65: Permits revoked since October because of mental-health issues
55: Attempted gun purchases stopped because of mental-health issues
12: Permit applications denied because of mental-health issues
SOURCE: State Law Enforcement Division
Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.