We almost had another school-shooting tragedy on Monday--this one in Charleston. Alice Boland drove up to the gate of Ashley Hall, an exclusive girls' prep school, brandishing a pistol. When school administrators confronted her, she tried to shoot them--but the gun was locked, and she'd forgotten to load it. Now, it turns out, Boland was able to buy the gun legally despite a long history of mental illness--and the fact she threatened to kill George W. Bush back in 2005.
“We were very fortunate she did not know how to take the lock off, or this could have been a tragedy,” said Earl Woodham, a spokesman in Charlotte for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.According to The (Charleston) Post & Courier, Boland, who is originally from Beaufort, has had problems with mental illness for several years. She has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and Asperger's. She spent three weeks at Medical University Hospital in Charleston early in the millennium; doctors there gave her 25 meds, but none of them worked. After the 2005 case, a judge sent Boland to Federal Medical Center Carswell, where doctors wanted to inject her with Risperdal to get her into a state where she could stand trial. But her parents balked, citing their past experience with Risperdal; when she'd previously taken it she'd experienced involuntary limb movements and trouble sleeping. They managed to get her transferred to a mental facility in North Charleston before bringing her home. And yet, despite this history, Boland was able to clear all the hurdles and buy the gun.
The authorities are investigating whether Ms. Boland was required to disclose her history of mental illness when she bought the gun. A small firearms store in Walterboro, 50 miles from Charleston, sold her the Taurus PT-22 pistol on Feb. 1. She filled out a federal background check form and was approved.
She appeared to have bought the gun legally, Mr. Woodham said. Gun buyers nationwide are required to disclose mental illnesses only if they have been committed to an institution or found “mentally defective” by a judge, he said.
“Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who are mentally unstable but who would not technically be declared mentally defective,” he said.
Ms. Boland’s 2005 brush with law enforcement came when she became upset with the slow process of getting through Customs in Montreal.
“I am going to kill President Bush with a gun,” she said, according to federal court papers. “Just give me a gun. I am going to come back and shoot you all.”
The federal charges were dropped after she pleaded not guilty by reason of mental incompetence.
No one who admits to threatening the president should be allowed to buy or possess a gun. And no one with a history of mental illness as voluminous as Boland's should be allowed to buy or possess a gun. Both situations together? To say that something is seriously and fundamentally wrong here would be an understatement.
Two weeks earlier, school officials rehearsed the protocol for handling a shooting with federal officials. Turns out that training came in handy, as they were able to stall Boland at the school gates and secure the campus. It turns out that administrators already knew Boland--back in 2010, she was seen hanging around the school asking questions about the kids there, and was cited for trespassing.
Governor Nikki Haley's only response so far has been to call it a reminder for the need to strengthen our mental health system. You got it half-right, Nimrata. This is also proof positive that we need a major rethink on our gun laws. It cannot be said enough--this woman had no business whatsoever having a gun.