Maryland’s new “red flag” law allows police, victims and health professionals to petition Maryland courts when an individual, family member or client has a gun and is an imminent threat to themselves or the community. The law, which went into effect in October 2018, is already saving lives across the state.
Under the law, guns are seized immediately following the issuance of an interim or temporary Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) by a District Court judge or a Commissioner. Between October 1, 2018 and the middle of February, 2019, 422 extreme risk protective orders were issued state-wide.
In the same time period, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department has collected 80 firearms based on 30 extreme risk petitions. Most orders were filed due to serious mental health concerns, usually suicidality. Several petitions were school-related. A number of cases were domestic violence.
Maryland’s red flag law is particularly helpful when an abusive partner has a gun, as it addresses two gaps in Maryland’s protective order law. First, it allows for a gun to be taken immediately, instead of waiting f0r the issuance of a final protective order, which can take weeks. In addition, the fact that the police or a health professional can file for the petition broadens the somewhat narrow restrictions of who can be a petitioner in a regular protective order case.
In one case, after police obtained a temporary ERPO, Sheriffs seized all the guns that they and the victim could locate at the victim’s home because her husband was threatening to kill her. Every respondent is allowed, with a Sheriff’s Department escort, to briefly return to the home to retrieve belongings. In this case the respondent attempted to remove from the home a large black bag in addition to his clothes. When the deputy inquired as to what was in the bag the respondent told them that it was medical supplies, but would not let the deputies see for themselves. Deputies subsequently refused to let him remove the bag from the home.
After the respondent left the home, the man’s child revealed that the bag was full of ammunition, silencers and another gun. The respondent has since been successfully prosecuted for violating the extreme risk protective order.