Gun-friendly Georgia seems to have a different agenda than the rest of the country. While most states are pushing for tighter gun restrictions on mentally ill people, lawmakers in Georgia want to ease those restrictions.
Right now, judges in Georgia can require that people seeking a license authorize the release of treatment records. There is currently no clearinghouse for treatment information, so judges have to send waivers to multiple hospitals or treatment centers.
On Thursday, legislators in Georgia’s House voted 117-56 to allow people who have voluntarily sought inpatient treatment for mental illness or substance abuse to obtain gun licenses. The vote gave judges discretion to decide whether or not to grant a license to anyone who has received inpatient treatment at a mental hospital or in a substance abuse facility in the last five years, both voluntarily and involuntarily. The bill also attempts to make it easier for officials to check whether or not applicants have ever received involuntary treatment. Courts would be required to submit involuntary treatment orders to a database that would be consulted before judges issue licenses to carry weapons.
“Simply being hospitalized doesn’t make a person a criminal or a threat,” Rep. Rick Jasperse, the bill sponsor, said in a statement.
The legislation would ban people whom law enforcement hear making threats against others and those represented by guardians because of mental illness or drug abuse.
Other prosecutors have expressed concern that not all people who are mentally ill have been to treatment and they would be eligible to carry weapons.
“My concern would be there’s got to be people who voluntarily seek inpatient treatment who wouldn’t be any less dangerous than if they’re sent there involuntarily,” Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds explained.
Current federal law prohibits the giving or selling of guns to anyone judged to be “mentally defective” or those committed to a mental institution.