One day after five people were shot and killed and two more were injured in Annapolis, Maryland at The Capital newsroom, Everytown for Gun Safety released a new fact sheet that details the gaps in the law that gave the shooter — and gives others like him — easy access to guns.
While details are still unfolding, initial reports suggest that two gun safety laws not in effect at the time of the shooting could together have helped prevent this tragedy. First, at the time of the shooting Maryland did not have a “Red Flags” process in effect to restrict firearm access to a person like the shooter who displayed warning signs of violence. In April of this year, Maryland enacted a Red Flag law, joining 10 other states with this policy designed to prevent deadly shootings like the one in Annapolis. The Maryland law takes effect in October.
The alleged shooter apparently displayed warning signs prior to the shooting. According to media reports and an opinion filed in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in 2015, the alleged shooter pled guilty in 2011 to criminal harassment for harassing a former classmate online on and off for months — conduct which included telling the woman to kill herself, calling her vulgar names, and emailing her employer in an attempt to get her fired from her job.
Second, even if the shooter had been prohibited from having guns, there is a loophole in the state’s background check system that would make it easy for him to buy a rifle or shotgun from a stranger he met online or at a gun show, with no background check and no questions asked. While Maryland law goes beyond federal law to require criminal background checks for all sales of handguns–including those sold by unlicensed sellers, this requirement does not apply to sales of many rifles and shotguns. This loophole allows people who are legally barred from having guns to easily shop on websites like Armslist.com with no background check, and no questions asked.
We will never know whether the shooting could have been prevented, but we owe it to the victims and survivors to push even harder to broaden the remarkable expansion of Red Flag laws since Parkland, and close the background check loophole. If you have questions about Red Flag laws or closing the background check loophole, please don’t hesitate to reach out.