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Spartanburg County judge can’t make gun deadline

SPARTANBURG (AP) — Spartanburg County’s probate judge says her county will likely miss a state deadline to report mental illness cases to a nationwide database used for gun checks.

The county had 9,000 cases total to review in just over 12 months, and Probate Judge Ponda Caldwell said there are about 2,500 left to be reviewed as the Aug. 1 deadline looms.

“We are just doing what we can, as we can,” she told the Herald-Journal of Spartanburg.

Caldwell hopes to finish by November.

A state law passed last year requires probate courts to report all cases where a person was judged mentally incompetent or involuntarily committed to a mental health facility. That information goes into a federal database, and those people aren’t allowed to own a gun.

The county doesn’t have the technology to digitally sort cases, so workers have to check each one by hand. The cases also have to be carefully handled because of federal confidentiality laws, so Caldwell is cautious about who reviews them. She said she has spent plenty of weekends just looking through the cases herself.

“With the regular volume of probate work coming in, I didn’t think I could take my regular staff away,” Caldwell said.

Smaller counties haven’t had as many problems. Probate Judge Donna Cudd in Union County had about 1,000 cases because her county doesn’t have a facility for mental commitment and those hearings are usually held elsewhere.

In Cherokee County, Probate Judge Josh Queen put one employee on the task full time until it was finished.

The law requiring the cases be reviewed and reported was urged along after 28-year-old Alice Boland was arrested with a gun outside a Charleston school in February 2013, telling police she tried to fire the weapon, but couldn’t figure out how to remove the safety. Boland had a history of mental illness documented by the court system and shouldn’t have been able to buy a gun, but her court records weren’t matched up with a federal database.

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