Valdosta Daily Times

Top News

March 13, 2013

Ga. gun proposal could close legal loophole

ATLANTA — A proposed change to Georgia’s gun laws could close a loophole allowing those with mental illness to buy firearms, though judges are concerned it might allow some of those people to legally carry weapons.

Federal law prohibits people from buying or possessing a gun if they have been legally deemed mentally defective or committed to a mental health institution. A national database uses information submitted by states to determine whether those buying guns should be disqualified because of mental health or other problems.

Differences between U.S. and Georgia gun laws mean the state does not collect information on one group who should be banned — people forced to receive out-patient treatment for mental illness or substance abuse. Since state officials do not have this information in the database, checking it would not prevent those receiving mandatory out-patient treatment from buying a gun.

“Right now, we are not collecting involuntary outpatient treatments,” said Terry Gibbons, deputy director of the Georgia Crime Information Center, which compiles the records.

There are other reasons records don’t turn up, law enforcement and judicial officials said. In some cases, treatment providers do not report the information. Also, courts do not forward involuntary treatment orders because processing the paperwork takes time, costs money or they have concerns about violating medical privacy laws.

“I do think we have a low reporting rate,” said Gibbons, one of several state officials involved in talks to fix the problem.

A bill adopted by Georgia’s House of Representatives could eliminate the loophole. Right now, Georgia law focuses on keeping guns away from people who have been involuntarily hospitalized. In a similar manner, probate court judges can deny a license to carry a weapon if an applicant has received in-patient care for mental illness or substance abuse in the last five years.

Those laws do not require the state to keep track of people forced to receive out-patient treatment.

Legislation adopted last week by Georgia’s House would close part of the information gap. The plan sponsored by Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, would force courts to forward all records of involuntarily treatment, regardless of whether it is in-patient or out-patient. Those who have received involuntary treatment in the last five years could be prohibited from getting a license to carry a gun under Jasperse’s plan.

His bill now heads to the Senate but faces opposition for other reasons — for example, provisions allowing people to carry guns in bars, churches and parts of college campuses.

Officials in Gov. Nathan Deal’s administration identified the information gap in mental health records as an issue during discussions over the past year, said Kristie Swink, a spokeswoman for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. The department has not taken a position on Jasperse’s plan, but Swink said the legislation would force courts to forward the now-missing information.

Jasperse’s bill would loosen restrictions in other areas, a prospect that concerns probate court judges who issue the licenses allowing people to carry firearms.

Under current law, judges have discretion over whether to issue licenses to carry a firearm to people who receive in-patient care for mental health or substance abuse problems in the last five years. The latest Republican-backed plan would not disqualify people who voluntarily seek treatment.

Judge Lynwood Jordan, a Republican who sits on the Forsyth County Probate Court, said that could create problems. He started license revocation proceedings against a man whose treatment provider had warned the patient was a danger and should not have weapons in his home. Although the man received in-patient treatment, it was not reported to the state. Since the man was not involuntarily treated, he could be eligible to receive a license under the proposed rules.

Jordan said the man voluntarily gave up his license to carry a gun.

“The report came back clean,” Jordon said, speaking of the man’s background check. “It wasn’t until two or three years later that we discovered he had been in the hospital.”

———

Follow Ray Henry on Twitter: http://twitter.com/rhenryAP.

 

For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Valdosta Daily Times e-Edition, or our print edition

1
Text Only
Top News
  • Michigan affirmative ban is OK, Supreme Court says

    A state’s voters are free to outlaw the use of race as a factor in college admissions, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a blow to affirmative action that also laid bare tensions among the justices about a continuing need for programs that address racial inequality in America.

    April 23, 2014

  • ‘Piles and piles’ of bodies in South Sudan slaughter

    Gunmen who targeted both children and the elderly left “piles and piles” of bodies — many of those in a mosque — in a provincial capital in South Sudan, the U.N.’s top humanitarian official in the country said Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014

  • Obama_Stew.jpg Obama views mudslide scene

    Swooping over a terrain of great sadness and death, President Barack Obama took an aerial tour Tuesday of the place where more than three dozen people perished in a mudslide last month, then mourned privately with those who lost loved ones in the destruction.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wall Street_Stew.jpg Earnings and corporate deals lift U.S. stocks

    Corporate deals and some solid earnings reports propelled the stock market to its sixth straight gain Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Economy College Gradu_Stew.jpg Job market for college grads better but still weak

    With college commencement ceremonies nearing, the government is offering a modest dose of good news for graduating seniors: The job market is brightening for new grads — a bit.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Supreme Court TV On t_Stew.jpg Internet TV case: Justices skeptical, concerned

    Grappling with fast-changing technology, Supreme Court justices debated Tuesday whether they can protect the copyrights of TV broadcasters to the shows they send out without strangling innovations in the use of the internet.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Today in History

    In 1791, the 15th president of the United States, James Buchanan, was born in Franklin County, Pa.

    April 23, 2014

  • Stowaway teen forces review of airport security

    A 15-year-old boy found his way onto an airport’s tarmac and climbed into a jetliner’s wheel well, then flew for five freezing hours to Hawaii — a misadventure that forced authorities to take a hard look at the security system that protects the nation’s airline fleet.

    April 22, 2014

  • South Korea Ship Sink_Rich copy.jpg Death count in ferry sinking tops 100

    One by one, coast guard officers carried the newly arrived bodies covered in white sheets from a boat to a tent on the dock of this island, the first step in identifying a sharply rising number of corpses from a South Korean ferry that sank nearly a week ago.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP520422034 copy.jpg Today in History for Tuesday, April 22, 2014

    Today is Tuesday, April 22, the 112th day of 2014. There are 253 days left in the year.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

Given the amount of rain recently, what's your favorite “rain” song?

Singing in the Rain
Purple Rain
Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
November Rain
Rainy Night in Georgia
Other
     View Results