Maryland’s red flag law came into effect on October 1, 2018. The law allows certain people to ask the courts to remove guns from any person that is deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. Only certain people are allowed to petition the courts. These include family members, law enforcement officers, and mental health professionals. The process of removing guns though, does not always go smoothly. In November, a man died after being asked to turn in his weapons under the new law.
“We certainly need more details about this case to understand exactly what happened,” says Oleg Fastovsky of Price Benowitz, LLP. “However, the law’s effectiveness has had questions surrounding it ever since its inception. The hope of course, is that there are no more tragic incidents like this and that the law only serves to protect, as it should.”
It was a month after the law went into effect that officers arrived at the home of a man that was flagged under the new law. The man, Gary Willis, answered the door while holding a firearm the police were there to confiscate.
Initially, the man placed the gun down. When the officers told him the reason for the visit though, he picked the gun back up and fired a shot. Police fired back and shot the man, causing him to die at the scene. No one else in the home, nor the police officers, were hurt during the incident.
The fatality occurred in Anne Arundel County, one of the areas in Maryland that has seen the most red flag petitions. Nine guns have been seized from the county already. Now, residents are questioning the due process of the red flag law and if it is actually working, or if it is just a ‘gun grab,’ as many citizens are calling it.
The law has not even been in effect for six months yet, making it difficult to tell whether or not it is effective. During the first three months of the new law, Maryland courts received 302 petitions asking the justice system to take guns from people in crisis. Throughout those same few months, law enforcement officers seized firearms from 148 people.