What would it take to get Georgia in compliance with gun law? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

What would it take to get Georgia in compliance with gun law?

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July 18, 2007

Albany - - A follow-up now to a story we brought you Wednesday. We told you Georgia is not enforcing a federal law designed to make sure people with serious mental illnesses can't buy guns. Now we take a closer look at why that's the case.

When Cho Seung Hui killed 32 people at Virginia Tech, it shocked America and made us realize we all could be vulnerable to an attack. 

"You know sometimes what happens up in Washington is Congress looks at things and kind of have a knee jerk reaction. I would not be surprised if that's what's driving this, says Georgia Representative Ed Rynders.

He applauds the U.S. House's recent approval to give states more money to enforce a federal law that would make it harder for people with serious mental illnesses to get hold of a gun.

But we wanted to know why Georgia lawmakers haven't enforced sending names of these people to the FBI. 

"Well you know you are talking two dozen states that did meet the requirements, you never know when you get into the details of why that is so," Rynders says.

We had to contact several agencies to find out why Georgia isn't following the law. We contacted the Attorney General's Office who then referred us to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. They thought Georgia was in compliance. But it wasn't until we talked to a Carroll County probate judge, Betty B. Cason did we get some answers.

She is the link between Georgia and the FBI when it comes to this issue. Judge Cason says some of the major issues behind the problem are a lack of money coming in so that the Department of Human Resources can perform the background checks. She also says it would take additional staff due to the high number of gun permit requests. And like anything, improved communication is necessary between all of the agencies involved. 

Surprisingly, Judge Cason says had Cho Seung Hui come to Georgia, he probably wouldn't have had any problem buying guns. That's because the lines blur when it comes to keeping a patient's mental history private and disclosing that information for the well-being of others, especially if the person in question is not stable enough to make his own choices about medical treatment.

"Certainly what we want to do is make sure that we do everything we possibly can to ensure that background checks are done so we don't get a situation like what happened up at Virginia Tech," Rynders says.

But whether Georgia gets the extra money to do that now lies in the hands of the U.S. Senate. 

Our calls to Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson to find out if they plan to vote for the bill were not returned.

The FBI says right now, only 22 states report the names of people with serious mental illnesses as required by law.

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