One Month In, Maryland's Red Flag Law Has Been Invoked 114 Times

In March, the Maryland legislature passed its version of a red flag law - legislation that would

[Authorize] certain individuals to file a petition for an extreme risk protective order with a certain court or a District Commissioner under certain circumstances; requiring a petition for an extreme risk protective order to contain certain information on the present danger including the number, types, and location of any known firearms in possession of the respondent; authorizing a judge to enter an interim extreme risk protective order to require the respondent to surrender any firearm in the respondent's possession; etc.

These laws are key components of almost every gun safety organization’s list of legislative demands, and Maryland’s passed by an overwhelming 116-17 margin in the House and 31-13 in the state Senate. The state already has some of the strongest gun laws in the country, as ranked by the Giffords Law Center, and enacting this legislation was the organization’s biggest key to improving them further.

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The law went into effect in October, and we’re now starting to get the first data on its impact, with the Maryland Judiciary reporting that it received 114 requests for firearm removal under the law in the first month:

Those requests results in guns being removed at least temporarily in a majority of cases and longer in 36 cases in which judges granted a final order — meaning guns could be taken away and the subjects could be prohibited from buying or possessing other firearms for up to one year.

Fewer than half of the requests — 44 — came from law enforcement. Most came from other sources such as family members and spouses, data show.

In a high profile incident, two police officers serving an order in Anne Arundel County - site of the Capital Gazette mass shooting - shot and killed a man they were serving one of the red flag court orders to. The man “became irate” at the officers, picked up his weapon off a table near the door. He struggled with the officers, his gun went off, and the officers defended themselves. The man’s family had petitioned for the order after “an incident.”

Police Chief Timothy Altomare said this incident proves that the law is working.

“Of course it causes me concern that officers might be put into a position where they’re confronting a person who’s exhibited evidence of non-clear thought with weapons,” he said.

But he said he rather have a trained officer confronting someone in that situation than a civilian.