A new law has passed the Georgia House and is headed to the Senate. It promises to increase the locations where Georgians can carry firearms, but that’s not necessarily true. It may also weaken existing laws keeping the mentally handicapped from getting a gun.
Georgia’s HB 512 is most famous for promising to expand the places licensed firearms can be carried. But, according to Fox 31’s Sean Streicher, that’s not the case. “If the bill does pass, it doesn’t mean every bar, church and college campus will automatically have licensed carriers walking around with their gun (http://www.mysouthwestga.com/news/story.aspx?id=869915),” he reports.
Not only that, but the bill may actually make it easier for those with mental issues to get a gun license. According to GeorgiaCarry.org (which pushed for HB 512) “Georgia Gun Owners is asking people to oppose the entire bill based on its misunderstanding of a provision relating to checks for involuntary hospitalizations. The truth is that current law includes voluntary hospitalizations as well as involuntary, and HB 512 is narrowing the scope of that provision down to involuntary hospitalizations only (http://www.georgiacarry.org/cms/2013/03/02/hb-512-needs-your-help/).”
What’s even scarier is that not only does HB 512 limit the denial of a gun license application to only involuntary hospitalizations, but it actually makes it harder for authorities to block issuing those licenses to individuals who may have mental problems.
GeorgiaCarry.org’s Vice-President John Monroe wrote (in that link listed above) “The bill would make the mental health check mandatory, but clarify that it is only for involuntary hospitalizations, and put a time limit of 30 days on it. Moreover, the bill would allow an applicant to state that he or she has not been involuntarily hospitalized, and the probate judge would be bound to accept that statement if not rebutted by the state within 30 days…..The burden of proof is not on the applicant. The probate judge is required to issue the license unless the judge finds the person is not eligible.” So if a person declares he or she is sane, a judge has barely a month to find out if that’s not true, and must otherwise issue the gun license.
What’s incredible is in that same posting, Monroe also concludes “Every significant gun rights organization, including GCO, has taken a position that mass shootings are a mental health issue and not a gun issue, and that existing mental health laws should be enforced.”
If mass shootings are a mental health issue, and existing mental health laws should be enforced, then why would anyone pass a bill to water them down?
It’s not always easy to catch shooters with mental health screenings. An NBC study of shooters before the wave of rampage killings found only a third had a mental health evaluation and only a fifth were diagnosed with having a mental illness (http://www.examiner.com/article/aurora-colorado-shooting-gun-control-vs-mental-health). Clearly, we don’t need to be weakening mental health studies or provisions on mental disabilities for those who hope to carry guns.
HB 512 seems to be out of step with what most national Republicans are saying about the need for tougher mental health screenings as a panacea to spree shootings. It doesn’t even increase the places you can actually carry a gun. I urge local conservatives to reexamine this bill.