Friday November 27th, 2015 5:48PM

Ga. lawmakers debate easing gun carrying rules for mentally ill

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) -- Georgia lawmakers will debate rules Thursday that could allow more mentally ill people to carry firearms, though hasty changes may blunt some of the impact.

The issue arose as House Republicans make a last-minute push on legislation permitting school districts to arm their employees and allowing those licensed to carry a gun to take their weapons into bars, churches and college campuses. That bill and a host of others must be approved by at least one chamber in the General Assembly by Thursday or risk failing for the year.

A lesser-noticed provision in the firearms bill would change rules on whether people who have recently suffered from mental illness or substance abuse can get a permit to carry a gun.

Probate court judges now have discretion over whether to give a license to a person who has been hospitalized as an inpatient at a mental hospital or an alcohol or drug treatment center within five years. Judges can require that applicants sign waivers allowing treatment facilities to disclose whether applicants have been hospitalized and allowing health care providers to give their recommendations to the judge.

The new bill would apply similar restrictions only to people who are involuntarily hospitalized, not those who voluntarily request help.

"... This bill strengthens and clarifies the mental health inquiry process for those seeking a Georgia Firearms License because it is targeted at the dangerous, not a person who recognizes they have an issue and voluntarily submits to treatment," Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) said in a statement. "Simply being hospitalized doesn't make a person a criminal or a threat."

His plan would make it easier for judges to get information about involuntary hospitalizations. Court officials would be required to report involuntarily hospitalizations to a state database that judges could consult before issuing a permit to carry a weapon. However, the latest legislation would not authorize judges to get information on voluntary inpatient treatment for mental health or substance abuse problems.

In a significant change, Jasperse's bill would require that judges check every applicant for involuntary hospitalizations. Right now, judges can make those inquiries, but they are not mandatory.

The bill is backed by, which wants gun owners to have greater freedom to carry their weapons in public. John Monroe, an attorney for the group, said he did not believe the proposal would change how most judges operate. If judges check at all, they typically ask for information from a state-run network of hospitals.

Monroe said it would be difficult, if not impossible, for judges to send waivers to every possible private treatment provider before issuing a license.

"There's no way for a probate court judge to check these things," he said.

Changes to the bill Wednesday would specifically prohibit judges from giving licenses to sex offenders, those deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial and those found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity. Another restriction would prevent judges from issuing a license to anyone whom a law enforcement officer heard make a threat against another person. Reports documenting those threats would be available to judges through the state-run database.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Ethics laws set to take effect Jan. 1 in Georgia
After dominating much of the legislative session, a set of major ethics reforms is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
7:04PM ( 1 year ago )
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Dems, GOP seek to define issue for 2014 elections
Ten months to next year's midterm elections, Democrats are determined to make Congress' slim production of fewer than 60 laws and plenty of incompletes - on immigration, gun control, tax reform and basic spending bills - a defining issue, heaping much of the blame on the GOP-led House for obstructing President Barack Obama's second-term agenda.
1:38PM ( 1 year ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 1 year ago )
Mexican sales tax hike seen as boon on US border
Mexican license plates are common in parking lots of shopping malls in U.S. border cities. They will be even more familiar after Mexico raises its federal sales tax in border regions to match the rest of the country, say merchants and shoppers.
11:06AM ( 1 year ago )
Deadline to sponsor Wreaths Across America at Alta Vista is Monday
Each holiday season, veteran grave sites at Alta Vista cemetery in Gainesville are adorned with wreaths as part of Wreaths Across America.
3:42PM ( 2 hours ago )
PHOTO GALLERY: Holiday shoppers hit Gainesville stores early
Black Friday may still have status as the kickoff to the holiday shopping season, but Thanksgiving Thursday is gaining ground as more stores opt to open early.
By AccessWDUN staff
10:01AM ( 7 hours ago )
Man wanted in death of infant in Ga., sought for attempted homicide in Fla.
Police in Georgia are searching for a man accused in the beating death of an infant.
By Associated Press
5:47AM ( 12 hours ago )
Big balloons, heavy security for NYC Thanksgiving parade; St. Louis parade resumes
NEW YORK (AP) — Americans paused Thursday to celebrate their blessings despite terrorism fears and racial tensions over fatal police shootings across the country. A record number of police officers pa...
7:58PM ( 21 hours ago )
Brenau professor: Shopping small, holiday spending on the rise
A local economist is encouraging holiday shoppers to take advantage of Small Business Saturday, the day after Black Friday.
5:51PM ( 23 hours ago )