It’s been more than a month since Maryland’s new “red flag” law went into effect, allowing all manner of people to file a complaint about the behavior of a gun owner which can then result in the police arriving to confiscate the person’s firearms. How popular has the law been? According to CBS Baltimore, police have recorded more than one hundred such requests in only the first few weeks. There is no indication as to whether or not that trend will slow down or continue to expand.
Just weeks ago, new legislation went into effect that can remove guns through protective orders from owners who may be a danger to themselves or others.
The first month of the “Red Flag Law” drew more than 100 requests, with most coming from family members and spouses.
In just the last five months, Maryland has endured two mass shootings that rocked the entire state.
One at the Capital Gazette left five dead, and another in a Rite-Aid warehouse in Harford County left four dead.
Those requests produced 61 interim orders and 70 temporary orders for the removal of firearms by judges. In a single month. This law and others like it being passed around the country are troubling on a number of levels. There is obviously a benefit to having a rapid method of response if a disturbed individual is exhibiting clearly unsafe behavior with a weapon and in such cases, innocent lives may be saved. But keep in mind that of the 114 requests Maryland officials received, almost none of them came from licensed psychiatric professionals. The vast majority were from family members.
Perhaps some of the subjects were truly dangerous and on the verge of committing violence. But how many of them came from houses where someone who just doesn’t like guns decided to drop a dime to get rid of a lawfully owned, safely operated firearm? There’s an appeal process in place so such owners can go make their case and possibly have their property returned, but they still find themselves in a situation of being treated as guilty until they can prove themselves innocent.
This law also puts the police in a dangerous situation. We saw the results of that when the cops went to confiscate the weapon of 61-year-old Gary Willis. He wound up dead after firing a shot in the direction of the police.
I happen to agree with the people pointing out that we simply aren’t doing enough to address mental health issues in this country, and when that crisis intersects with Second Amendment rights it produces difficult, complicated situations. The dangerously mentally unstable should not have access to firearms, which should be clear to everyone. But those people need to be adjudicated as mentally ill and incapable of safely owning firearms before their rights are removed. How do we do that? I remain unsure, but these red flag laws don’t seem to be an ideal answer.
How can you perform a rapid evaluation of someone’s mental health, particularly if they’re not in the mood to cooperate? These are tough questions, but we need answers to them.