COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - Attorney General Alan Wilson spoke at a press conference Tuesday to show his support for new legislation addressing mental health and gun violence issues.
Wilson was joined by law enforcement, legislative and mental health leaders in Columbia on Tuesday. New legislation introduced by State Representatives Eddie Tallon and Rick Quinn will require courts to report people with mental health issues to authorities so law enforcement can put them in a database.
Wilson said those who are reported will not be able to purchase firearms. The proposed legislation would put court documents on people who have been deemed mentally ill by a court or judge into a federal database.
You can read the entirety of the proposed legislation here.
According to Wilson, court documents listing mentally-disturbed people are public record and can be reported.
Wilson said the decision comes after the incident at Ashley Hall on Feb. 4, when 28-year-old Beaufort woman Alice Boland, who had documented mental health issues, was able to legally purchase a handgun days before authorities say she tried to commit murder outside the private, all-girls' school in downtown Charleston.
"We don't need to wait for an actual tragedy for the bill to become law," Wilson said.
Wilson and Tallon told those in attendance at Tuesdays press conference the new legislation is not a gun restriction bill, but instead a reporting bill. Wilson said he is a gun owner and was at the range shooting on Monday.
"If this was a gun restriction bill, I wouldn't be here today speaking," he proclaimed.
If the new legislation passes, South Carolina will be the 39th state to have the law, according to Wilson.
Representative Andy Patrick says the bill is one solution to a problem.
A little over three years before the incident, a federal judge had dismissed charges that she threatened to kill President George W. Bush after she pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Wilson said: "Last week, the potential for another Newtown tragedy hit way too close to home. It would not have been prevented by restricting the rights of law abiding citizens. But it could have been prevented by communicating, identifying, treating, and prohibiting persons such as the suspect in this case from legally purchasing firearms.
"State and federal leaders must address the mental health epidemic by treating the problem, not by eroding or ignoring the Second Amendment. There is no reason for South Carolina to remain one of six states that has no barriers to prevent the mentally ill from purchasing a firearm. That is why I will continue working with legislative, law enforcement, and mental health leaders on this issue.
"Taking guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens will not keep our children safe. Keeping guns out of the wrong hands will. With someone such as the suspect arrested at Ashley Hall, who had earlier threatened to kill President Bush and law enforcement officials, red flags should have gone up and stayed up. She should never have been able to purchase a gun. However, she did. That is why her story highlights the need for mental health reform, not overreaching gun control."
Charleston's police chief said the time for action is now.
"Anybody that says you need to wait did not see the faces of those children, they did not see the faces of those parents, and they did not see the faces of those police officers who responded to that scene, and basically said thank God this occurred the way it did, and it was not a tragedy that we were looking at victims," said Chief Greg Mullen.
Wilson said the NRA has not taken a position on the bill yet.