Graham proposes bill targeting gun purchases by the mentally ill

South Carolina’s senior senator announced legislation this afternoon that he said would prevent the mentally ill from legally buying a firearm.

Republican Lindsey Graham said the bill adds to a national database people who have used insanity as a criminal defense and others who have been involuntarily committed to an institution. When the name of such a person is run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, the result should stop them from completing the purchase, he said.

The measure comes in response to an incident Feb. 4 in which Beaufort resident Alice Boland is accused of pointing a gun at a school official in downtown Charleston and pulling the trigger. The pistol didn’t fire because no round was in the chamber.

Boland, 28, bought the gun three days earlier and did so legally despite pleading not guilty by reason of insanity to threatening to kill the president in 2005. The charge eventually was dropped after she was committed to mental health facilities and was forcefully treated with anti-psychotic medication.

When details of her history emerged, parents of children at Ashley Hall and local officials called for political action to halt people like Boland from purchasing guns from retailers.

“To people in the Charleston area, I’ve heard your voices,” Graham said during a news conference this afternoon in a snowy Washington.

Graham was joined during the announcement of the NICS Reporting Improvement Act of 2013 by Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska; Jeff Flake, R-Arizona; and Mark Pryor, D-Arkansas.

They said they worked with mental health advocates and the National Rifle Association to draft the bill, which has garnered widespread support.

“One of the things I love about this effort is that it’s bipartisan,” Pryor said. “That’s a very important piece of this legislation.”

According to Graham’s office, the measure would pertain to people:

•determined to be an imminent danger to themselves or others;

•found guilty but mentally ill in a criminal case;

•who pleaded not guilty in a criminal case by reason of insanity or mental disease or defect;

•who were incompetent to stand trial in a criminal case;

•who were not guilty only by reason of lack of mental responsibility under the Uniform Code of Military Justice;

•who required involuntary inpatient treatment by a psychiatric hospital;

•who required involuntary outpatient treatment by a psychiatric hospital based on a finding that the person is an imminent danger to himself or to others; and

•who required involuntary commitment to a psychiatric hospital for any reason including drug use.

Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.

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