BALTIMORE (WJZ/AP) — A proposed “red flag” law in Maryland would allow family members or friends to have authorities temporarily seize guns from a person who they believe poses a threat to themselves or others.
The Maryland bill was introduced days before the deadly Florida school shooting by Maryland House Delegate Geraldine Valentino-Smith, D-Prince George’s. The bill is currently in the Maryland General Assembly and a hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
The law would create “lethal violence protection orders” that would allow family members — including a current or recent “dating partner,” roommate or legal guardian — to petition a judge for a temporary restraining order enabling law enforcement officers to seize guns or ammo.
Five states — California, Connecticut, Indiana, Oregon and Washington — already have “red flag” laws. Nearly 20 states, including Maryland, as well as Washington, D.C. are considering a version of such law.
The Associated Press reports the red flags around the alleged Parkland gunman, Nikolas Cruz, weren’t enough for relatives, law enforcement or school officials at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to request a judicial order barring him from possessing guns.
Cruz reportedly had a slew of warning signs: expelled from school, fought with classmates, had a fascination with weapons and hurting animals, possessed disturbing images and posted comments to social media, had previous mental health treatment.
A “red flag” law is currently not on the books in Florida, however, Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation last fall.
Many gun-rights activists oppose the laws. They say they can be used to unfairly take away rights from people who have not been convicted of crimes or professionally evaluated for mental illness.
The National Rifle Association’s lobbying arm has said such laws allow courts to remove Second Amendment rights “based on third-party allegations and evidentiary standards” that are lower than what’s required in criminal proceedings.
Connecticut led the way with a 1999 law, passed after an employee shot and killed four executives at the state Lottery headquarters. It allows police to remove guns based on probable cause that a person poses a “risk of imminent personal injury.”
In a study published last year, researchers at Duke, Yale, Connecticut and Virginia estimated that dozens of suicides have been prevented by the law, roughly one for every 10 gun seizures carried out. They said such laws “could significantly mitigate the risk” posed by the small number of legal gun owners who might suddenly pose a significant danger.
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