Bill Would Keep Mentally Ill from Buying Guns

Sen. Lindsey Graham encourages bi-partisan support

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By Monique Williams

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) -- A group of bi-partisan senators has introduced legislation designed to prevent those who are mentally ill from buying guns, and a South Carolina republican lawmaker is spearheading what he hopes will be become law.

Proposed legislation, according to South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, will fix what he calls a major flaw in the federal system. In a nutshell, folks who have been declared mentally ill in a court of law, would be prohibited from buying a firearm.

"People who find themselves in this legal category of having gone to a federal court and plead not guilty by reason of insanity, having been [ruled by a judge] in federal court to be dangerous to themselves and others, would no longer be legally able to pass a background check."

Passing a federal background check is required in order to purchase a firearm.

Graham says this bill would close what he calls a loophole in the current law. It's a gap he and other lawmakers think has allowed people like Alice Boland, a South Carolina woman with a documented history of mental illness, to purchase a weapon.

Boland reportedly pointed a gun at educators on the campus of a Charleston school in February, but the gun jammed and did not fire.

"There are a lot of emotion about 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," said Graham.

But does this bill proposed by lawmakers unfairly target the mentally ill? Officials with the South Carolina National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI, says possibly.

"This is a complex issue," says Executive Director, Bill Lindsey.

While Lindsey, believes something should be done, he's not completely convinced singling out the mentally ill is the answer.

"People with a mental illness are much more likely to be the victim of a crime instead of the perpetrator of a crime," said Lindsey.

He claims more attention should be given to proper funding for treatment to reduce the percentage of sick people who are a danger to themselves and the community.

"If they can get the right treatment, they can do well."

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