The story from Charleston would have made international headlines had the woman involved carried out her intention. Earlier this month, she showed up at Ashley Hall in Charleston and pointed a loaded pistol at school officials, repeatedly pulling the trigger. The gun malfunctioned, no one was hurt and she was taken into custody, found to be a person with a history of mental illness and one who should not have been able to purchase the weapon from the gun shop where she legally did so.
How could it be that the woman could legally purchase the weapon? The reason is South Carolina’s lack of cooperation with the federal government, something in which our leaders take pride in some instances. Not this time. And with good reason.
For years, federal law has banned those deemed mentally ill by a court of law from buying a firearm, keeping the names in a database. But South Carolina is one of 12 states that does not take part in the federal program by forwarding names of people here to the feds. Thus, there is no flagging of people such as the woman in the Charleston incident during a background check in purchasing a gun.
South Carolina Republican Attorney General Alan Wilson is proposing to fix the problem.
He is seeking approval for legislation that would require the state’s judiciary to report to the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division and then to the federal database the names of those deemed legally mentally ill.
Even as state lawmakers are pushing bills that expand gun rights and seek to guard against federal intrusion on Second Amendment freedoms, it appears this issue will get bipartisan support.
But that does not mean in the present environment that gun-rights advocates will not find a reason to present obstacles, fearing any such action sends the wrong message on gun rights. We hope not.
It is difficult enough to stop a person committed to obtaining a weapon from doing so. But the present system of checks does flag those with criminal records and other histories of being “potentially dangerous” and prohibits them from buying a weapon.
Knowing the connection between mental illness and the stories of mass killings in this country is enough alone to realize there is need to also prevent those deemed mentally ill from legally buying a weapon.