Currently, anyone committed involuntarily must wait five years to have the record of their hospitalization expunged and be able to purchase a weapon.

Bill would help involuntarily committed people to recover gun rights

The state Senate Friday approved a bill that would make it easier for some people with past mental health or substance abuse problems to buy a gun.

Under federal law, states must report to the FBI when someone is involuntarily committed for mental health or substance abuse issues. That makes them ineligible to purchase a firearm.

Under Georgia law, the records of those hospitalizations are automatically expunged after five years, making people eligible to buy a weapon again. In effect, it’s an automatic five-year wait to buy a firearm for someone who has been involuntarily committed.

Senate Bill 99 would eliminate the automatic five-year expungement. But it would require a hearing before for anyone who has been involuntarily committed for mental health or substance abuse issues to buy a gun. The hearing – which would be required even after five years has expired – would determine whether the person is still a danger to themselves or others.

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Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, the bill’s sponsor, said it would allow people to get their gun rights back in a more timely fashion if they’re no longer a threat.

Senators also approved an amendment to the bill that would change the state law defining weapons that require a permit. Currently, the law says that carrying a knife with a blade longer than five inches requires a weapons permit. Under the amendment, someone could carry a knife up to 12 inches long without a permit.

Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, the amendment’s sponsor, said the Cobb Galleria Centre hosts a knife show each year. He said knife makers come to the show not realizing they need a permit.

SB 99 passed by a vote of 52 to 1. It now goes to the House of Representatives.

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