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PARKER: Bowling for sanity

 

 

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- When President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union address that "This time is different," referring to his push for tighter gun laws, he wasn't just whistling Dixie.

Analysts seeking insight into the gun debate need look no further than the land of cotton, where nothing is ever forgotten. In a matter of days, citizens and lawmakers on both sides of the gun issue have advanced laws to:

-- Allow concealed weapons to be carried in bars and restaurants;

-- Make it legal to purchase or own any weapon that could have been acquired legally at the end of 2012;

-- Strengthen background checks to identify people with mental illness.

The latter is the most serious of the batch and follows a recent near-tragedy at Ashley Hall, a private girls' school in Charleston where Barbara Bush, among other notables, was once a student. Several days ago, a woman with a long record of mental instability, including a 2005 court plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, brought a loaded semi-automatic pistol to the school and pulled the trigger several times while pointing the gun at a school administrator.

Fortunately, the gun never fired and Alice Boland, 28, was unable to complete her mission. What exactly that was isn't easily discerned from her bond hearing rant, which covered a diverse collection of complaints:

"I wanted to make a political demonstration about problems in my life relating to the fact that racist feminists, including institutions like that where I was demonstrating ... have been causing me these alleged mental problems ever since I met a lesbian professor," said Boland.

Check.

This was not Boland's first visit to Ashley Hall, which is located near her psychologist's office. Boland prompted a call to police two years ago when she reportedly was seen "harassing children and acting very suspicious," according to a Charleston police officer. This time, she brought a Taurus PT-22 pistol she had purchased a few days earlier, despite a mental health record that, in a rational world, would have blocked the sale.

The woman herself said she was crazy, yet she's sane enough to buy a gun?

More than 50 Ashley Hall parents have signed a letter sent to a dozen state and federal officials urging action to prevent people such as Boland from acquiring firearms. Boland managed to answer questions on a federal questionnaire adequately to purchase the gun. And because she has no criminal record, her name wasn't flagged during a routine background check.

Laws governing doctor-patient privacy prohibit disclosure of mental health issues -- as any who have sought psychological counseling would have it.

But Boland had another record that clearly should have disqualified her from gun ownership. Never mind an earlier diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. She also had faced federal charges for threatening to kill President George W. Bush and "the entire U.S. Congress." Her plea of not guilty by reason of insanity inarguably should have placed her in a database of those ineligible to purchase firearms. But because her charges were dismissed in 2009, she had no criminal record.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, speaking in D.C. on Wednesday, labeled the Ashley Hall case Exhibit A of a "broken system," and has vowed to introduce legislation that would enhance the background check process to include "prior exposure to court and ... mental status."

Meanwhile, state officials back home in Columbia were busy figuring out ways to skirt any new laws that might restrict gun ownership.

Citing an 1881 "unorganized militia" state law, state Sen. Tom Corbin, R-Greenville, proposed legislation guaranteeing everyone's right to own any weapon that could be purchased legally as of Dec. 31, 2012. Corbin's claim that federal law could not pre-empt South Carolina law, in addition to being incorrect -- federal law trumps state law -- was rather dramatically disproved during the unpleasantness of 1861-65.

In other action, a state Senate panel approved a bill to allow concealed weapons in restaurants and bars so long as the carriers don't drink. Noting the volatility of mixing guns and alcohol, some suggested that business owners could post signs banning guns in their establishments. But one speaker called that "un-American." Another insisted that he should be allowed to have a glass of wine with his lasagna while packing heat.

So it goes in the state that James L. Petigru, anti-secessionist and former South Carolina attorney general, long ago described as "too small to be a republic and too large to be an insane asylum."

It remains to be seen if this time is different.

Email nationally syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker at kathleenparker@washpost.com.

Comments

JV 1 year, 7 months ago

Not sure what the writer's point is. But we are certainly not enforcing existing laws and it makes no sense to make new ones if they too will not be enforced. Excerpt and a link to a BATFE letter to all states attorney generals from 2007.

Section 922(g)(4) of 18 U.S.C. makes it unlawful for any person who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution to possess firearms or ammunition. This prohibition covers two classes of persons-those who have either been (1) adjudicated as a mental defective; or (2) committed to a mental institution.

http://www.atf.gov/press/releases/2007/05/050907-openletter-state-attorneys-general.html

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Jan 1 year, 7 months ago

I recently heard the New York police commissioner state that 90% of the guns confiscated in New York City were purchased outside the state. As long as the person to person and gun show loophole exists, these guns will continue to be purchased legally and sold on the black market. The law against felons buying guns is not enforced at gun shows or person to person sales because the NRA managed to bribe congressman to put in this loophole. Its like telling police that they can only enforce speeding laws on interstate highways and then complaining that the current speeding laws are not enforced. The NRA is nothing more than a shill for the gun manufacturers. Their only interest is selling guns, convincing you that you need more guns and bigger guns because the criminals have more and bigger guns. Then they tell you we cannot use the law to make acquiring guns more difficult for criminals because that might cause an inconvenience for law abiding citizens. That is as absurd as not putting up speed limit signs because many people will speed anyway. When you respond negatively to my comments, please at least try to find some new insults, the old ones are getting boring. I know most of the typical responders on this issue have no facts and will resort to some anecdote that proves nothing or a barrage of ridiculous insults demonstrating their lack of thinking.

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JV 1 year, 7 months ago

So, in your mind Section 922(g)(4) of 18 U.S.C. is no fact and a anecdote regardless that it is a public law passed by Congress and signed into law.

Now where is the lack of thinking?

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Jan 1 year, 7 months ago

As usual, you either ignore most of what I write or just fail to understand. You complained about lack of enforcement while wanting to deny the agency a major means of enforcement. Without universal background checks, the ability to enforce this is practically impossible, like police trying to catch speeders and not allowed to use patrol cars or motorcycles to do it. Sure, some would get caught but most will evade capture. In 2006, New York confiscated almost 6000 illegal guns. With 90% of them purchased out of state, over 5000 guns are being purchased annually to turn up on the black market in New York City. Only a fool would thing that closing the gun show loophole would not help in the enforcement of the illegal purchasing of weapons. These laws will not hurt law abiding citizens.

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JV 1 year, 7 months ago

The New York police commissioner is a habitual liar.

Top 10 Lies Told By Ray Kelly's NYPD: A Retrospective

http://gothamist.com/2012/01/25/10_more_whopping_lies_told_by_the_n.php

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JV 1 year, 7 months ago

Significant gaps in the FBI’s database of criminal and mental health records allow people to buy firearms every year who should be barred from doing so. The database is incomplete because many states have not provided federal authorities with comprehensive records of people involuntarily committed or otherwise ruled mentally ill.

The gaps exist because the system is voluntary. The Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that the federal government cannot force state officials to participate in the background check system. As a result, when a gun dealer asks the FBI to check a buyer’s history, the bureau sometimes allows the sale to proceed, even though the purchaser should have been prohibited from acquiring a weapon, because its database is missing the relevant records.

Records are also spotty for several other categories of prohibited buyers, including those who have tested positive for illegal drugs or have a history of domestic violence. That suggests that many names are missing from the database.

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Jan 1 year, 7 months ago

So, in your opinion, since the system is not perfect we should just give up. Obama is already addressing the improvement of the database. This will improve the system very little as long as the absurd gun show loophole is allowed to remain.

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JV 1 year, 7 months ago

Please give specifics on just what Obama is "addressing" as an improvement of the database. The NRA officially supported the creation of an active national database of the mentally ill in December 2012. Advocates for people with mental illnesses object to characterizations of such individuals as inherently dangerous and argue that broadening restrictions against gun ownership by including more people in the background check database encourages unfair stereotyping. The National Alliance on Mental Illness contends that requiring people with mental illnesses to essentially register with the FBI could discourage them from seeking treatment.

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notblind 1 year, 6 months ago

The libs want to blame the guns when it's people that are the problem. People like lawyers and bureaucrats and politicians who fight like crazy for the "rights" of the insane or the "rights" of the criminal element in our society.

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