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Republican offers tougher gun background checks for mentally ill

Lindsey Graham (Reuters)

Lindsey Graham (Reuters)

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A Republican U.S. senator introduced bipartisan gun background check legislation on Wednesday that would make it harder for mentally ill people who are considered to be dangerous to buy a firearm.

The legislation proposed by Lindsey Graham would require reporting of certain mental illness treatments and legal proceedings to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the clearinghouse for all new gun purchases.

Those cases would include anyone found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity or anyone who received involuntary outpatient treatment from a psychiatric hospital.

Graham cited a recent case in his state of South Carolina as a key example of the failures of the current background check system and the need for reform.

Last month, a woman who had previously pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity after being indicted in 2005 for threatening to kill President George W. Bush tried to fire a gun at faculty members at a private girls school in Charleston.

Senate panel passes bill seeking to curb illegal gun purchases

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday backed President Barack Obama's call to crack down on illegal trafficking of firearms, marking the first votes in Congress on gun-control since a school massacre last year prompted calls for action.

On a largely party-line vote of 11-7, the Democratic-led committee approved a bill to make it a federal crime to engage in "straw purchasing," or buying of guns on behalf of those who are prohibited from owning them.

"It is designed to prevent criminals from using straw purchasers who can pass a background check and then hand those firearms to criminals," Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said. The bill imposes a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

Republican critics of the bill argued the measure was not needed, saying existing laws were adequate. They also warned it could send someone to jail even if they did not know the ultimate buyer was not permitted to own a gun.

Alice Boland, 28, was allowed to buy the gun even though a court in the 2005 case declared her legally insane and a substantial risk to others and ordered anti-psychotic drugs and long-term psychiatric care, which she received, Graham said.

Boland, who has paranoid schizophrenia, aimed the gun at faculty members at Ashley Hall School and repeatedly pulled the trigger, authorities have said. Although it was loaded, the gun did not fire.

President Bush's mother, Barbara Bush, attended Ashley Hall.

Boland has been charged with attempted murder and possession of a weapon during a violent crime. She is due in court for a preliminary hearing on March 14 and has not entered a plea.

"The Alice Boland case is 'Exhibit A' of a broken background check system," Graham said on Wednesday. "An individual who pleads not guilty by reason of insanity should not be able to pass a federal background check and legally purchase a gun. As astonishing as it sounds, that actually happened."

Graham said the legislation would ensure that those who have been declared an imminent danger to themselves or others cannot legally obtain a firearm.

"There is a lot of emotion around the gun violence issue, but I am hopeful this is one area where we can find tremendous bipartisan support to fix what I think is a gaping gap in our law," Graham said.

The U.S. Senate is considering several other gun-control bills, including a controversial proposal that seeks to revive the federal ban on the sale of assault weapons that was in effect for a decade before expiring in 2004.

Another bill would require criminal and mental health background checks of all gun buyers. The debate over gun control has heated up since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school in December.

The legislation introduced by Graham is co-sponsored by Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona and Democrats Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

The four senators said their proposal contains provisions to allow people who have recovered from their mental illness to have their Second Amendment rights restored.

The bill "strengthens the background check system while protecting both gun and mental health rights," Begich said.

Comments

LMAO 1 year, 6 months ago

I totally agree! I'm also a CCW Holder and I abide by the laws, but these felons out here don't? So they need to come up with something,that if caught with a gun? No more slap on the hand! They need to do serious hard time! I'm all for the bill to go through for the mentally challenged people, they should not be able to have access to any type of weapon.

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RedEric 1 year, 6 months ago

Felons with guns needs to be a crime separated from whatever else they were charged with. It is usually pled off the books. It needs to have teeth or there will be no change. You are correct!

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VSU 1 year, 6 months ago

That's right, mentally ill and criminals, not law abiding citizens. Although it doesn't matter much with criminals, they'll get a gun one way or the other.

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Nous_Defions 1 year, 6 months ago

If what the Little Napoleon Graham said about the Boland incident in SC is true, then it is a failure of the SC legislature and it's mental health system reporting prodedures and should not require a Federal law to correct this. Currently here in GA, anyone who is involuntarily committed for mental issues is reported to a statewide database that can be accessed by law enforcement and the courts.

A $3.00 fee is now collected from a person applying or renewing a Georgia Weapons Carry License (GWCL) for a check against the Mental Health database. But State law does not make the check mandatory, only Dekalb County is currently accessing the database for GWCL. A current bill from the Legislature that crossed over to the State Senate would require all Probate Judges to perform a check against the mental health database. That bill is HB 512, Safe Carry Protection Act of 2013. As a staunch supporter of our 2A rights, this is a bill that I can support. And it is supported by GeorgiaCarry.org , the premier gun rights organization in the State of Georgia. It expands the places where carry would be legal, clarifies wording in current GA Codes, and halves the cost of GWCL renewal among other things.

My letter to Hon. Senator Freddie Powell Sims, supporting this bill was sent this am, I urge other freedom loving individuals to do the same and contact Ms. Sims with your support for HB 512.

P.S. Ms. Carol Fullerton voted AGAINST this bill in the House of Representatives. Remember that during the next election.

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