See our Mental Health Reporting policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.
Federal law prohibits possession of a firearm or ammunition by any person who has been “adjudicated as a mental defective” or involuntarily “committed to any mental institution.”1 No federal law, however, requires states to report the identities of these individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database, which the FBI uses to perform background checks prior to firearm transfers.
South Carolina enacted a law in 2013 requiring the reporting of mental health-related information to the NICS system.2 The law mirrors federal law regarding the definitions of “adjudicated as a mental defective” and “committed to a mental institution.” The law requires courts to transmit information about adjudications and commitments to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (“SLED”) within five days. SLED must then transmit this information to NICS. This information must otherwise remain confidential.
The 2013 law also provided one year for courts to submit retroactive information on such individuals going back a minimum of ten years or, if records are not available as far back as ten years, as far back as records exist.
Finally the law provides a process for a person who has been adjudicated or committed as described above to petition to regain his or her federal firearms eligibility.
For general information on the background check process and categories of prohibited purchasers or possessors, see the South Carolina Background Checks section and the section entitled Prohibited Purchasers Generally.