State deficiency limited Boland's background check - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

State deficiency limited Boland's background check

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By Stacy Jacobson
sjacobson@abcnews4.com

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Alice Boland went to federal court in 2005 and pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Authorities later dropped the charges. But how did she buy a gun in Charleston just days before she confronted administrators and students at a school?

ABCNews4 asked state and federal authorities and they said it all comes down to South Carolina's lawmakers.

States must report red flags like mental illnesses to the federal government, so that the information is included in background checks and prevents someone like Alice Boland from buying a gun.

But, state lawmakers admit that does not always happen in South Carolina – and it's a matter of money.

When state Rep. Peter McCoy saw Boland's paperwork from a 2005 incident in a Montreal airport, he had only one response.

"That's pretty unbelievable," he said.

Boland had already spent 21 days at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston years before federal officials charged her with threatening the life of then-President George W. Bush.

According to federal court documents, the incident happened at Pierre Trudeau/Dorval International Airport in Montreal, Canada after a visit there. Boland was in the process of going through Customs "when she became angry at the process for what she felt was taking too long," the affidavit said.

"Give me a gun, I am going to kill you," she reportedly told airport police. "I am going to kill President Bush with a gun. Just give me a gun; I am going to come back and shoot you all, asshole. I am going to find a gun and kill you all."

Boland pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and the charges were later dropped.

Nearly eight years later, police said she legally purchased a gun in South Carolina and then showed up at Ashley Hall School. She threatened the lives of administrators and pointed a loaded gun at the school director.

She pulled the trigger several times, but the gun did not fire.

"The fact that she had a gun is troubling to me. It's upsetting that she did have a gun, seeing the background she had. Numerous medications, numerous treatments, a court order," McCoy said.

 

‘This is a health matter'

Boland's parents said Thursday morning that they were told by their legal counsel not to speak on the matter.

"Some people are trying to make it appear like politics and it's not," Donald Boland said. "This is a health matter."

Samantha Ewing is the mother of two girls who attend Ashley Hall.

"It's very scary that a mental person would be able to buy a gun. It's appalling," Ewing said.

South Carolina is one of many states that does not always share mental health information with the federal government. But, Mark Binkley with the S.C. Department of Mental Health said the department wanted change.

"We've been talking about it for 15 years," he said. "Now the one thing that the mental health community would say about that is, whatever system is developed, you would want to insure that the records were only used for background checks."

Otherwise those records need to be unavailable, he said.

Ewing said lawmakers need to make sure it does not happen again at her daughter's school or any other school in South Carolina.

"If you're going to get a gun, I definitely think it should show up in your background check," she said.

Documents show Boland has been treated for schizophrenia, Asperger's Syndrome and described her as a high-functioning autistic.

McCoy said he would support creating a database so that mental health records would not be overlooked in the future. But he added that he has to wait until March to see what happens with the state budget.

ABCNews4 also spoke with Boland's attorney from the 2005 case. George Gatounis declined to comment on the current case or the situation eight years ago.

 

SC has only submitted 17 mental health records since 2011

A White House official said Thursday that South Carolina opted out of reporting mental health issues. They added it was a state issue.

As part of his gun control reform, President Barack Obama wants to make sure dangerous people are prohibited from having guns. His initiative says, "We need to make sure our laws are effective at identifying the dangerous or untrustworthy individuals that should not have access to guns."

It goes on to say the president will direct the Attorney General to review those laws.

Sen. Lindsey Graham's office said Graham would not be making an official comment on the Boland case, but a spokesman said they are extremely interested in the case as it develops.

Graham said in a statement last week that one gun in the hands of an unstable person is one too many. Officials in his office said that statement certainly applies to the Boland case.

"My basic premise is that one bullet in the hand of a mentally unstable person or a convicted felon is one too many. Six bullets in the hands of a mother protecting her twin 9-year-olds may not be enough," he said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

A report released by the organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns shows South Carolina is behind the curve when it comes to selling handguns to the mentally ill.

As of October 2011, South Carolina has only submitted 17 mental health records to the national instant background check system.

ABCNews4 shared that information with Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell who said, "Our goal has to be to keep criminals and severely mentally ill people from purchasing guns. Our General Assembly must provide the funding and changes in law necessary to accomplish this."

The report also says South Carolina struggles with the issue because there is no system to collect records from mental health agencies and courts. There are also no laws requiring record sharing.

State Attorney General Alan Wilson's office declined to comment on the story.

Gov. Nikki Haley's office has also not responded to requests for comment, but Haley has said in the past that more attention needs to be paid to mental health issues instead of stronger gun laws.

 

A case of school security

Administrators at Ashley Hall said all of its emergency response procedures were followed accordingly, but would not go into details of what those procedures are. School officials said those plans are confidential and would not be released to the public.

At Bishop England, officials said the school has updated cameras and added locks to doors around the campus. School officials said they have also encouraged Charleston police to patrol the area at any time.

The school said it is also requiring visitors to contact the main office to set up an appointment before showing up at the school.

911 calls released Thursday depict a frightening situation for administrators and parents who were waiting to pick their children up from another day at school.

"There's a lady with a gun outside of Ashley Hall on Rutledge Avenue," said one caller.

"They just had to get the girls inside and they just locked her out, but I have no idea what is going on there and I just picked up my child," said another.

The caller said the woman with a gun, later identified as Boland, had been pacing back and forth and waving the gun for about 30 minutes.

According to affidavits, Boland had a functioning and loaded handgun. She pulled the trigger several times while the gun was pointed at a school administrator, but it did not fire. 

Police have not said what kept the gun from firing. 

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