As Congress considers Red Flag legislation that would empower law enforcement and family members to ask a court to temporarily restrict someone’s access to guns when he is a threat to himself or others, a new report out of Prince George’s County highlights how a Red Flag law is already saving lives in Maryland. Since Maryland’s law went into effect in October 2018, more than 100 weapons and 35,000 rounds of ammunition have been temporarily removed from people in crisis in Prince George’s County.
This news comes after a report in January that showed that during the first three months of Maryland’s red flag law, Maryland’s judiciary “fielded 302 requests to remove firearms from individuals…including five cases involving threats against schools,” four of which concerned “significant threats” against schools.
Red Flag laws allow families and law enforcement to ask a judge to temporarily suspend a person’s access to guns when there is evidence that person poses a serious threat to him- or herself or others. When someone is in a state of crisis, or threatening violence against themselves or other people, access to a firearm can mean the difference between life and death.
The report states (emphasis added):
“More than 100 weapons were confiscated in Prince George’s County after Maryland passed its red flag law last year.
“The Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Office reported last week that since Oct. 1, 2018 it has served 56 Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) and collected 132 firearms and 35,000 rounds of ammunition.
“The results since this law went into effect demonstrate the need and the value of this tool for law enforcement and for community safety,” said Sheriff Melvin C. High. “We were proud to support this legislation and to support lawmakers in getting it passed.”
“In May, sheriff’s deputies placed a person into custody and took them to a medical facility for evaluation after an Emergency Petition Service and ERPO were simultaneously issued for that individual. Deputies confiscated 40 firearms, 342 firearm magazines and over 23,000 rounds of ammunition from that person’s home.
“Another 38 firearms and 1,600 rounds of ammunition were surrendered to the sheriff’s office on May 13.”
Since the Parkland mass shooting – where the family of the shooter saw warning signs prior to the tragedy – ten states and Washington, D.C., have passed Red Flag laws and five were signed by Republican governors, including Maryland’s law. In total, fifteen states and Washington D.C. have these laws on the books.
Bipartisan members of the U.S. House and Senate have introduced multiple pieces of Red Flag legislation during the 115th and 116th Congress, including members in leadership positions from both political parties. Shortly after the Parkland mass shooting, President Donald Trump expressed support for Red Flag laws.
Last year, the Federal Commission on School Safety, formed by the Administration after Parkland, endorsed Red Flag laws. And during his confirmation hearing in front of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, now-U.S. Attorney General William Barr said that Red Flag laws were “the single most important thing we can do in the gun control area to stop these mass shootings from happening in the first place.”
We have seen time and again that Red Flag laws can save lives. They help prevent firearm suicides, mass shootings and other gun violence tragedies. That’s why Congress must stand up to the gun lobby, and act now to pass a strong Red Flag law that allows families and law enforcement in all 50 states to ask a court to temporarily suspend someone’s access to guns when there is evidence that person poses a significant threat to themselves or others.
More information about Red Flag laws is available here. If you have questions about this important type of legislation, please don’t hesitate to reach out.