Does HB 875, a new gun related bill introduced this week in the House of Representatives, contain “a dangerous new mental health mandate” as some are claiming?
Georgia Gun Owners, a three year old branch of Dudley Brown’s notorious National Association for Gun Rights, has been flooding its bloated email list with panicky emails regarding HB 875, claiming it “includes a dangerous new mental health mandate” and removes the right to bear arms from Georgians based on nothing more than a mere “bureaucrat’s interpretation.” In an email sent on Wednesday, Georgia Gun Owners called HB 875 “Chuckie Schumer’s Gun Control” and expressed concern over a hypothetical veteran who has “a court order to seek treatment once a week from a mental health professional.”
News flash for Georgia Gun Owners! Their hypothetical veteran, being the subject of a court order for mental health outpatient treatment, is already ineligible under federal law, and any person providing a firearm to him who has reasonable cause to believe that the veteran has been involuntarily committed by a court commits a federal crime. See 18 U.S.C. 922(d). Pursuant to Georgia law, any person not eligible under federal law is also ineligible for a Georgia Weapons Carry License. This is existing state and federal law, not something new contained in HB 875.
Under current Georgia law, an involuntary hospitalization is reported to NICS for background check purposes, but it is not clear from the law that involuntary outpatient treatment is required to be reported. HB 875 clarifies this issue by requiring reports of involuntary commitment orders, which would include involuntary outpatient treatment in addition to hospitalizations. In other words, this bill ensures that those involuntarily committed on an outpatient basis are reported along with those involuntarily committed as inpatients.
In order to be involuntarily committed in Georgia, one must present a substantial risk of imminent harm to himself or others. An outpatient is one under Georgia law who requires involuntary treatment to avoid predictably and imminently becoming an inpatient because his mental state keeps him from voluntarily seeking or complying with outpatient treatment.
In other words, these are persons who are being involuntarily sent for mental health treatment by a court because they present a substantial risk of imminent harm to themselves or others and will now be reported to NICS, even if the involuntary treatment is now on an outpatient basis. Does that sound like a dangerous new mental health mandate?
HB 875 also repeals the crime of carrying a firearm in a church, bar, or government building, removes the fingerprinting requirement at license renewal times, and makes other important changes to Georgia law, but those issues will be addressed in a future column.
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