The federal Department of Justice announced today it will give a $900,000 grant to the S.C. Law Enforcement Division to help beef up the state’s gun background check system.
The money comes after the General Assembly passed legislation called the Alice Boland Bill. The law creates a state database of those legally prohibited from purchasing firearms for reasons such as being “mentally defective,” or for having been involuntarily sent to a mental institution.
Lawmakers quickly passed the bill following the high-profile February incident in downtown Charleston in which Alice Boland, a 28-year-old woman with a history of mental illness, purchased a handgun and then tried to fire it at school administrators outside Ashley Hall School, according to reports. The gun was loaded, but there was no round in the chamber.
Federal prosecutors indicted Boland for making false statements when she bought the handgun at a gun shop in Walterboro.
The nearly $1 million in federal money will go toward improving the state’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is used to make sure people purchasing firearms aren’t prohibited from owning them, such as someone who has been adjudicated mentally ill. Federal prosecutors say that was the case with Boland, but she’d lied in order to buy the gun. A statewide database would mean the name of anyone adjudicated mentally ill by a South Carolina court would end up in the federal background check system so someone like Boland couldn’t buy a gun in the future.
“This is what good government looks like,” Charleston Democratic Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, who sponsored the bill, said today in a statement. “When Democrats and Republicans work together for the common good, we not only can change lives, we can save them as well.”
Stavrinakis said the legislation wouldn’t have passed without help from Republicans, Democrats, the attorney general’s office, and mothers at Ashley Hall School who fought hard for the law. Republican Gov. Nikki Haley signed the bill May 3.
“Because of this bipartisan effort, people like Alice Boland will never be able to legally purchase a firearm and put our children in danger again,” Stavrinakis said.
Bamberg County Democratic Rep. Bakari Sellers, who is running for lieutenant governor, took the opportunity to mock his Republican colleagues on social media.
“We don’t want federal funds!” he posted to Twitter, a jab at South Carolina GOP leaders who have a reputation for turning down federal money and tweaking the nose of the federal government. The U.S. Department of Justice, the agency providing the $900,000 in federal funds for the state, is run by Eric Holder, an appointee of Democratic President Barack Obama.