South Carolina could soon share more data with the federal government to prevent the sale of guns to the mentally ill. The bill to that effect is expected to be introduced by two lawmakers Tuesday.
To date, the state has done little to share mental health records with the national gun check database, though Attorney General Alan Wilson would like to change that.
Someone who wants to buy a gun in South Carolina today must fill out a questionnaire about his criminal record and other information.
The gun dealer then calls that information in to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or NICS.
Robert Battista, who owns the 707 Gun Shop in Socastee, says he'll usually get an answer back from NICS within five to ten minutes.
But Battista says the problem today is that only criminal and not medical records are put into the gun check database.
"Therefore if a doctor had said that you are a danger to yourself or to others, it's not accessible now by the current FBI check," Battista said.
Battista says a law requiring mental health information to be submitted to the database wouldn't bother him, but he wonders where the government would draw the line.
Could someone be denied a gun permit because of a minor incident that happened years ago? Battista asks.
It would be better to close the reporting loopholes for all crimes, he says.
"There are some pretty big gaps in the information sharing about felonies and particular crimes themselves, never mind mental issues."
St. Sen. Greg Hembree of Little River says providing more mental health information on the background check is a better solution to gun violence than banning particular weapons or ammunition.
He favors the attorney general's proposal to only include cases that have been settled in a court of law.
"They've had their due process rights and a judge has considered those issues and made a determination that this person is mentally ill," Hembree said.
Hembree added that South Carolina is one of only twelve states that do not provide mental health information to the national gun database, so passing that kind of bill would be a good idea.