Legislature may be ready to tighten Ga. gun law, but just a little

State lawmakers on both sides of the gun debate will soon decide if the time is right to take steps to tighten Georgia’s gun law.

Under a long-standing law, the records of thousands of Georgians who were involuntarily committed for mental health treatment have been removed from a national database that gun dealers use to run background checks of buyers. That database is the only tool that gun dealers have to tell them when someone isn’t allowed to buy a gun.

All states are required to submit names to the FBI’s National Instant Background Check System of people who have been involuntarily hospitalized for mental health, drug or alcohol treatment. Licensed gun dealers must check that list before making a sale.

Georgia is the only state in the nation that removes names from the database after five years, with no new mental health assessment required. Since 2013, Georgia has purged 2,014 names from the FBI’s database.

Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, filed Senate Bill 99 last year to eliminate the Georgia requirement for the “purge” of records of involuntary hospitalizations after five years. The Senate passed the bill, but it was never passed by the House. The bill remains in a House committee.

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While the proposal may not have a far-reaching impact on gun sales, it comes as public pressure for tighter controls is reaching a peak. Protests this week before state legislatures and Congress are calling for lawmakers to make changes after 17 students and teachers were shot at a south Florida high school.

That has helped improve the chances of a change in Georgia law.

+ February 21, 2018 – Atlanta, Ga: A protester holds a sign reading, “Not one more,” during the Moms Demand Action Advocacy

“I think they’re good,” Parent said of the chances her bill, or one like it, will get final passage this legislative session. “This is not a policy that anyone is opposed to. It really is just one of those vagaries of the system where there is a huge loophole.”

Much of the gun debate has focused on how people with mental illnesses get access to firearms.

“We’re OK with (Parent’s) bill,” said John Monroe, the attorney for GeorgiaCarry.org, which has been a lobbying force at the state Capitol for legislation about gun rights. “There’s no justification for the deletion (of names) after five years. It causes confusion because people think they can go buy a gun but they are still prohibited (from possessing a firearm) under federal law. Deleting (the names) makes it harder to discover it. But it is still a crime.”

Parent’s bill would allow those records to remain forever on the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System or NICS.

+ The sponsor of the bill that would change Georgia’s gun law, Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta), on the floor of the Georgia

… read more

The new legislation would bring Georgia law more in line with federal law,” said Athens-Clarke County Probate Court Judge Susan Tate, chair of the Weapons Carry License Committee for the Council of Probate Court Judges of Georgia.

Former student Nikolas Cruz, 19, who is charged with 17 counts of murder in the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., reportedly suffered from depression. However, he was never ordered to undergo in-patient treatment — that step would have placed his name on the FBI database and blocked him from buying the AR-15 he allegedly used in the shooting.

On Wednesday, high school students swarmed the Florida’s Capitol, often running into roadblocks with legislators unwilling to tighten the law in that state. Also on Wednesday in Atlanta, across the street from the Georgia Capitol, about 1,000 rallied for stricter state gun laws.

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“The tragic events in Parkland are the tipping point for my generation, said Jacob Busch, senior at Chamblee Charter High School said. “The time for sending thoughts and prayers without actually making change has run its course.”

House Democratic Leader Bob Trammell of Luthersville, urged the demonstrators, most of them dressed in red, to continue the group effort to change gun laws.

“Do you want to know how common sense gun laws are made? Look to your right. Look to your left. That’s how common sense gun laws are made,” Trammell said.

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Georgia is considered one of the nation’s most gun-friendly states. State law mirrors the minimum standards laid out in federal law. In addition to people who have been involuntarily hospitalized for treatment for mental illness or drug or alcohol addictions, those who cannot buy or possess a firearm also include felons, anyone convicted of domestic abuse, and anyone with a pending protective order because of stalking or harassment.

In January alone, there were 45,591 queries to NICS regarding Georgians applying permits to carry a handgun or to buy a so-called long gun. Nationwide in January, there were just over 2 million NICS checks.

In 2017, there were 541,655 background checks made from Georgia; 25.2 million nationwide. According to the FBI, Georgia was responsible for 612,985 of more than 27.5 million NICS background checks from all the states for gun purchase or carry permits.

While Probate Judge Tate welcomed the proposed change to stop Georgia from purging the database entries, she said other loopholes in the state law will not remedied by the proposed legislation.

Many times a person who is ordered to involuntarily submit to a mental health evaluation will decide to willingly got into treatment, which means their names will not appear in the FBI’s database of those prohibited from buying or possession of a firearm.

“A lot of people who are in our mental hospitals are considered voluntary patients but they went there (for evaluation) involuntarily,” Tate said. “We never know about it and those people never get reported.

GBI Director Vernon Keenan, whose agency feeds data into NICS, said Georgia had purged 13 names already this year. In 2017, the GBI added 2,863 records of involuntary treatment records to NICS but pulled out 212. Since 2013, Georgia has sent almost 9,800 records but purged 2,014 from NICS, even though federal law says anyone ever involuntarily hospitalized can never possess or buy a gun.

Once those records are purged, gun sellers have no way of knowing they shouldn’t sell to those Georgia residents.

“Those 2,000 persons are still prohibited from purchasing a firearm but they can go in and purchase a firearm because there’s nothing in the national database,” Keenan aid. “I think there’s a lot of concern that this is a gap in public safety.”

Keenan continued, “I’m not aware of anyone that supports a person who’s been involuntarily” hospitalized having a gun.

FBI database of those who can’t buy or carry a gun

Each year, Georgia sends to an FBI database between 1,000 and 3,000 names of people who cannot buy or carry a gun because of mental health issues.

Some make the list because a criminal court found them incompetent to stand trial or guilty but mentally ill. Others are placed in the database because a guardian was appointed to handle their personal affairs because they are not competent to do it themselves.

A third group is people involuntarily committed to either a public or private hospital for mental health treatment; it is only the people in this group whose names are purged from the national data base after five years.

Georgia records sent in to FBI database:

2017— 2,863

2016 — 1,803

2015 — 2,104

2014 — 1,429

2013 — 1,542

Georgia records purged from FBI database:

2017 — 212

2016 — 260

2015 — 463

2014 — 438

2013 — 641

By the numbers

2.1 million records of involuntary commitments to mental health hospitals nationwide.

484,580 background checks were made in Georgia in 2014.

10,932 guns sales were blocked nationwide 2013-14 because of involuntary commitments.

9,000 records in national database of people who had been involuntarily committed to mental health hospitals.

Source: Everytown for Gun Safety, FBI

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Hilton Head Real Estate News: February 2018

CENTURY 21 DIAMOND REALTY ADDS NEW AGENTS

Century 21 Diamond Realty welcomes Georgia Angelillo, Bob Colonna, Vanessa Maloney and Karen Meyer to its real estate team.

Angelillo and Colonna moved to Hilton Head Island in 2010. Angelillo was president of a co-op building for five years, while Colonna has experience in vendor management and contract negotiations.

Maloney has lived in the Lowcountry for 12 years. Previously, she worked in social work and the medical field. Meyer is a Sun City resident with a experience in marketing and interior design. Previously, she worked in business management and marketing with Fortune 100 companies. She was also a realtor in Atlanta and owned a bed-and-breakfast in Crested Butte, Colorado. Maloney and Meyer will work out of the company’s Bluffton office.

TWO AGENTS JOIN CHARTER ONE

Kimberlee Patterson has joined Charter One Realty as a real estate professional. She has been a Lowcountry resident for over 25 years, and was a member of Dunes Real Estate for five years before joining Charter One. She has a background in advertising, marketing and design staging and is based in Bluffton.

Daniella Squicquero has also joined Charter One Realty as a real estate professional, partnering with Hilton Head Life founder and real estate professional Ric Hollifield. Squicquero has experience in negotiations, copywriting, communication, marketing and design.

HERMAN EARNS RECEIVES REAL ESTATE DESIGNATION

Beck Herman, a member with The Institute, has received the organization’s Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist designation, given to members who have documented performance in the top 10 percent of their residential markets and have successfully demonstrated their expertise in the luxury home and estate markets. Herman is a broker on Charter One Realty’s Herman and Davis Properties team.

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Metro Atlanta home prices up in 2017 — but lack of listings got worse

Metro Atlanta’s housing market its fifth consecutive year of solid gains last year, but the shrinking supply in homes for sale has continued to drop into the red zone, according to a report by Re/Max.

The median sales price of a ho me sold last year was $239,000 – up 6 percent from 2016.

Rising prices are likely to push buyers – especially first-time buyers — deeper into the suburbs this year, said John Rainey, vice president of Re/Max Georgia. “Looking ahead, we expect to see changes in buying patterns this year, as buyers begin to look to communities further outside of Atlanta in search of more affordable housing and a wider selection.”

Among the region’s core counties, Fulton had the highest priced sales, a median of $332,500 during the year – more than twice the median price of a home sold in Clayton County.

Clayton, which suffered more concentrated pain than any other county during the crash of real estate and the recession that followed. With more ground to make up, Clayton is also bouncing back a little faster than its neighbors to the north.

The sales prices in Clayton last year were up a robust 9 percent from the year before – a stronger increase than the other core counties.

However, Gwinnett had the most active market: during 2017, the county had 12,158 homes sold, according to Re/Max.

+ Good news if you are selling a home: you probably won’t have so much competition. (TNS)

As healthy as it all sounds, the market has a problem that has continued to worsen: inventory – that is, the number of homes listed for sale. One of the reasons that prices have been steadily climbing is that the balance has shifted to sellers – there are more buyers looking than homes listed for sale.

Inventory is measured by the number of months of sales it would take to soak up the listings. In a healthy, balanced market, inventory generally represents six or seven months of sales.

That number has been a problem for a while. It already didn’t look good in 2016 – it was about half what experts say is healthy.

And it got a lot worse last year, dropping 12 percent to was 3.0 months, said Re/Max.

That is, if you have a home to sell, pretty good news. But it means many buyers will be competing against each other and that prices will keep rising.

The buyer-seller balance does differ by area and even by neighborhood.

The fundamentals of the metro Atlanta economy have been solid. What worries economists is that the increases have been consistently outpacing the rise in wages for most Atlantans. Which means that residents will spend more of their income on housing, buy much more modest homes or – as Rainey suggested – move farther away to find less costly options.

And experts say the overall market depends on first-time homebuyers. If they are priced out of the market, that makes it harder for the previous wave of first-timers to sell their own homes and “move up.”

The trend is not likely to change soon, Rainey predicted. “Inventory will continue to impact the market until we see a rise in new home construction – particularly entry-level houses that meet Atlanta’s rising demand for affordable housing.”

The balance, of course, could get worse if Amazon chooses Atlanta for its new headquarters and tens of thousands of newcomers arrive in need of housing.

MYAJC.COM: REAL JOURNALISM. REAL LOCAL IMPACT.

AJC Business reporter Michael E. Kanell keeps you updated on the latest news about jobs, housing and consumer issues in metro Atlanta and beyond. You’ll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

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Median price of homes sold during 2017

Fulton $332,500

Cobb $263,625

DeKalb $261,161

Gwinnett $228,125

Clayton $129,300

Source: Re/Max Georgia

Number of homes sold, by county during 2017:

Gwinnett 12,158

Fulton 10,744

Cobb 10,062

DeKalb 8,054

Clayton 1,396

Source: Re/Max Georgia

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