Georgia Law Makes It Easier for Mentally Ill to Buy Guns

'The public has massively overestimated the dangerousness of the mentally disordered'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 23, 2015 4:18 PM CST

(Newser) – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has an eyebrow-raising report on a little-known Georgia law that allows guns to be placed in the hands of people involuntarily committed for mental health treatment. Federal law prohibits those people from buying guns, and Georgia added more than 2,000 such names to the National Instant Background Check System this year. But a peculiar state law requires those names be removed after five years—with no further review or evaluation of the people whose names are being removed. That frees people with a mental illness, who were involuntarily committed only five years prior, to legally purchase a gun anywhere in the US. Georgia removed approximately 500 names from the list this year. It's the only state that automatically removes names from the national database.

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“The public has massively overestimated the dangerousness of the mentally disordered,” Dr. Steven Hoge, an American Psychiatric Association chair, tells the Journal-Constitution. Hoge says Georgia's law seems "reasonable," as most people with mental illness recover within "weeks to months" of treatment. A state senator who supports the law says it helps remove the stigma from mental illness. "By now, we know that there will be two responses to [mass shootings]: Liberals will call for better gun control, and conservatives for better mental health services," Fusion reports. "The conflict in Georgia—between keeping guns away from people with a history of mental illness, and the dangerous implications of keeping records of those who’ve been involuntarily committed—illustrates how the second option is so complicated." (Read more Georgia stories.)

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