Politics

Gun Bill In The Georgia Legislature Has Bipartisan Support

A bill in the Georgia Legislature would change the rules for when people who have been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital can but guns.
A bill in the Georgia Legislature would change the rules for when people who have been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital can but guns.
Credit NICK NESMITH / WABE
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Proposals to change gun laws usually spark contentious debates at the state legislature, but some Republicans and Democrats have found a bill they agree on.

“It has something in it for everybody, which is why it’s been a bipartisan, successful bill,” said Democratic state Senator Elena Parent from northern DeKalb County, the bill’s lead sponsor.

Under current law, Georgians who have been involuntarily committed to mental hospitals are added to a federal background check database, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which prevents them from being able to purchase guns in gun shops.

But in Georgia, people who have been involuntarily committed are effectively removed from that list after five years.

“People who commit mass shootings are very likely to be severely mentally ill,” Parent said.

To buy a gun, the bill sponsored by Parent would require someone involuntarily committed to a mental hospital prove in court that they are mentally fit. They could petition the court a year after being released from a mental facility.

“I believe in the ability of psychological treatment to get people right back on the right track,” Parent said. “But we’re going to ask: are you someone whose rights can be restored, who has now demonstrated to the courts that you are of sound mind?”

Parent points out, compared to the current five-year wait, her bill would more quickly get guns back in the hands of Georgians involuntarily committed to mental hospitals.

Tyler Harper, a Republican co-sponsor of the bill, said he likes that the bill would give Georgians a chance to quickly restore their right to purchase a gun.

“I’m a big Second-Amendment guy,” he said.

Gun rights activists did not respond to requests for comment, but they haven’t opposed similar measures in the past.

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