At first, it was a story about what could have happened.

Alice Boland showed up at Ashley Hall, pointed a handgun at some children and pulled the trigger as an administrator stepped in front of the muzzle, authorities said. The weapon didn't fire because no round was in the chamber, so the Charleston private school narrowly avoided a tragedy.

But within days it became a story about what never should have happened.

Boland shouldn't have been allowed to buy the gun in the first place because of her history of mental illness, people in and out of law enforcement said. The Post and Courier uncovered her past, drawing national attention to the ordeal. Her case inspired federal and state legislation.

In Columbia, politicians pushed through a law requiring those deemed mentally ill to be reported to a database of people prohibited from purchasing firearms. The state later won a $900,000 federal grant to help fund the new program.

ANDREW KNAPP

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