Georgia Gun Owners Goes “Chicken Little” On Mental Health Reporting

Georgia Gun Owners has been papering the ether with hyperbole about a new “mental health mandate” contained within HB 875, a gun rights bill sponsored by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper). The so-called “new” mandate requires courts to notify the GCIC and hence the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) within 10 days of an involuntary commitment. Georgia Gun Owners does not seem to object to the 10-day time requirement (nor to any other provision in the bill besides the “new mental health mandate.”)

What Georgia Gun Owners apparently fails to realize is that current law already requires courts to report involuntary commitments to GCIC. The only thing “new” in the bill is the 10-day time requirement. The “potential” disqualifications you are worried about are not happening today, apparently, so what makes you think they will happen tomorrow? For years, probate and superior courts in Georgia have been reporting the mental health commitments they order – they just have not been required to do so within 10 days. Is there really something terribly wrong with putting a time frame on an important issue like this?

Georgia Gun Owners also is concerned about whether “commitment” means inpatient or outpatient. Under federal law, there is no distinction between inpatient or outpatient commitments. A person who has had either on a involuntary basis is prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition. Georgia law cannot undo that. It can only be changed at the federal level. In the meantime, we in Georgia must work within the legal framework we find ourselves. Current law prohibits issuing a GWL to anyone who cannot legally possess a firearm under federal law. Nothing in HB 875 changes that. All HB 875 does is implement a reasonable timeline for reporting.

Georgia Gun Owners argues that current federal law only applies to inpatient treatment. And what bastion of legal wisdom does Georgia Gun Owners use as is source: President Barack Obama. That’s right. Georgia Gun Owners believes that since President Obama has suggested a regulation to say that “commitment” includes both inpatient and outpatient treatment, the current law must not apply to both. Surely the President knows the law, right?

GeorgiaCarry.Org prefers to get its law from the source. In 2006, a federal court ruled that “committed to a mental institution” (which is what the law says) is different from “committed in a mental institution” (which is how the court said the law would be worded if it were to apply only to inpatient treatment. U.S.A v. B.H., 466 F.Supp.2d 1139 (N.D. Iowa 2006). The Court concluded that current law applies to both inpatient and outpatient treatment. GeorgiaCarry.Org understands that Rep. Jasperse may amend HB 875 to change “involuntary commitment” to “involuntary hospitalization.” Of course, no change that Georgia makes will have any effect on federal law, and the feds will remain free to come seize a person’s firearms who has been involuntarily committed to a mental institution on an inpatient or an outpatient basis.

Finally, current law also makes clear that “voluntary admission to a mental institution” does not constitute being “committed to a mental institution.” Thus, Georgia Gun Owners’ concern that veterans or others seeking treatment will be disarmed is unfounded.

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One Response to “Georgia Gun Owners Goes “Chicken Little” On Mental Health Reporting”

  1. david Says:

    I must admit that I am also a little concerned that the mental health language is too loose. When we have already seen national leaders and their mouthpieces suggesting that groups such as returning veterans, Tea Party members and the religious right are potential terrorists – or have a mental disorder and should be committed, then it definitely catches my attention when I see it in proposed legislation.

    And, leaving this in the hands of the courts and the psychiatric community, which generally have not been the best friends of gun owners, does not give me a warm, fuzzy feeling.

    I would like to see some language constraining their ability to misuse this portion of the bill, or outline some recourse, such that if it is used unjustly that a simple remedy is available.

    Otherwise, I am extremely pleased with the proposed bill and commend those who have worked so diligently to bring us to this point.