A Republican state lawmaker in Georgia on Thursday introduced a bill that would relax gun restrictions on people who have been treated for mental illness.
State Rep. Rick Jasperse (R) told The Associated Press that his bill -- titled the "Safe Carry Protection Act" -- would allow people who have voluntarily sought out treatment for mental illness and substance abuse to get a firearm license.
The measure would also do away with fingerprinting requirements for license renewals and permit guns in bars, churches and college campuses.
"Simply being hospitalized doesn't make a person a criminal or a threat," Jasperse explained.
Under the proposed bill, a probate judge would be required to accept written statements from permit applicants claiming that they had not been involuntarily hospitalized, unless the state could prove otherwise within 30 days.
The move to loosen gun restrictions goes against a national trend of increasing gun control after the December mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
Georgia Democrats vowed to oppose the bill, but admitted that they did not have the votes to block it.
"More than anything in the wake of not just one, not just two, but a series of tragedies, for our reaction to be an expansion of the places where people can feel unsafe, to increase the efficiency of evil, I find that be just a flabbergasting decision to make as a Legislature," Democratic minority leader Stacey Abrams said.
The Second Amendment advocacy group GeogriaCarry.org claimed that the bill was "designed to enhance the safety of all Georgians through the safe carrying of firearms by responsible citizens. "