Maryland “Red Flag” Law Designed To Curb Gun Violence And Save Lives

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By David V. Diggs
The Law Office of David V. Diggs

Gun violence has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. Maryland has proven no exception to the scourge. Even before the tragic mass shooting at The Capital Gazette on June 28, 2018, which took five innocent lives, the Maryland state legislature enacted new gun law changes, including a ban on bump stocks and a law making it easier to remove guns from people adjudged responsible for domestic violence.

Perhaps most controversially, the General Assembly also passed a “red flag” gun law. House Bill 1302, which went into effect on October 1, 2018, is titled “Public Safety – Extreme Risk and Protective Orders.” The statute allows judges and court commissioners to order the temporary removal of guns from people who are judicially deemed a risk to themselves or others.

The process to remove firearms begins with a petition filed in the District Court or, if after regular business hours, with a District Court commissioner. The petition should enumerate the specific reasons the person in question might harm himself or another individual. Factual information, including the number and location of guns, should also be included in the petition. If approved, a judge has the authority to have law enforcement officers remove guns within hours of the filing. During a subsequent court hearing, the gun owner could seek to retrieve his or her weapons.

Under the new law, petitions can be filed only by certain individuals: law enforcement officers, health care professionals, spouses, family members, persons involved in an intimate relationship or persons having a child in common, and current or former legal guardians.

The law seeks to protect gun owners from wrongful accusations. Petitioners who have made false claims could face perjury charges, which would include the possibility of imprisonment.

According to Catherine Rentz’s Baltimore Sun article dated January 7, Maryland’s new “red flag” gun safety law drew 114 requests to remove firearms during its first month. Those filings in October 2018 included 19 requests each in Anne Arundel and Harford counties, the jurisdictions with the most requests. Anne Arundel County judges granted eight orders, the most of any county. Whether or not these judicial actions saved any lives, we will never know.

Of course, the statute is controversial among certain gun owners who decry the law as an encroachment upon their constitutional right to bear arms. Proponents of the legislation counter that “red flag” laws are a measured way to save lives and expedite legal action to remove weapons only after dangerous behavior becomes apparent.

If you are concerned about a loved one who may present a danger to himself and/or others, you should seek legal advice regarding Maryland’s “red flag” law.

David Diggs is an experienced family law and personal injury attorney. If you need further information regarding this subject or any other legal issue, contact him at The Law Office of David V. Diggs LLC, located at 8684 Veterans Highway, Suite 204, in Millersville, by calling 410-244-1171 or emailing david@diggslaw.com.

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