WASHINGTON, DC (WCSC) - Senator Lindsey Graham said Wednesday he will be introducing legislation to ensure more thorough background checks for potential gun-buyers, citing last week's Ashley Hall incident as a paramount example of the failure of the current system.
During a press conference, Graham told the story of Beaufort native Alice Boland, the 28-year-old woman with documented mental health issues who allegedly attempted to kill a school official last week outside Ashley Hall, a private, all-girls' school in downtown Charleston.
Boland, despite being previously diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and having faced federal charges for threatening to kill President George W. Bush and "the entire Congress," was able to legally purchase a .22 caliber handgun in Walterboro two days before the incident on Feb. 4.
The federal charges were dismissed in 2009, four years after she pleaded not guilty on the reason of insanity.
Investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms said Boland was allowed to buy the gun because she has no criminal record, and there is no record of her mental illness in the FBI database.
"The HIPAA laws make it illegal, doctor patient confidentiality," explained Arlyn Pendergast, president of ATP Gunshop in Ladson. "The only way that stuff shows up is if they do a crime. Now if they do a crime, then the police put it in there because that's not doctor patient confidentiality."
Graham said, "To me, this is 'Exhibit A' of a broken system; how can it be that the background check would allow her to buy a gun?"
"This is an outrage and it could have resulted in tragedy, and if we had better laws on the books she should have been found out when she tried to buy the gun," he continued.
Graham said instead of "expanding the background check program right now," Congress should, " focus on finding a way to make sure a person who goes before a federal judge and pleads not guilty by reason of insanity after threatening to kill the President of the United States at least can fail a background check."
"I will be introducing legislation so that people like her, and I don't know how many there are, that when they go through the background check process, the system will indicate their prior exposure to court and their mental status […] To my colleagues in Congress, if you want to pass something that really matters, let's make sure Alice Boland never gets a gun…I think most of us agree that one bullet in the hands of Ms. Boland is one too many," he added.
Graham also lamented the lack of prosecution against those who failed background checks while trying to purchase guns, "80,000 people who tried to buy a gun in 2012 failed a background check. Only 44 were prosecuted. That means you're not addressing the problem."
"In America, the consequences of failing a background check are almost negligible. So there is no deterrent, and this seems a good place to start. Let's fix the system so that Alice Bolands of the future do not pass a background check."
Boland remains behind bars at the Charleston County Detention Center. She faces charges of attempted murder, two counts of pointing a firearm, unlawful carrying of a firearm, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.