Maryland's new 'red flag' gun safety law drew 114 requests to remove firearms during its first month

Maryland’s judiciary fielded 114 requests to remove firearms from individuals in October, the first month the state’s new “red flag” gun safety law went into effect.

Those requests results in guns being removed at least temporarily in a majority of cases and longer in 36 cases in which judges granted a final order — meaning guns could be taken away and the subjects could be prohibited from buying or possessing other firearms for up to one year.

Fewer than half of the requests — 44 — came from law enforcement. Most came from other sources such as family members and spouses, data show.

Maryland was among eight states to pass “red flag” legislation in the aftermath of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting that killed 17 in February. Maryland’s law enables law enforcement officials, certain family members, intimate partners and mental health providers, among others, to request the temporary removal of guns through Extreme Risk Protective Orders from those who pose an immediate danger of causing personal injury.

“I’m sure at least one life was saved,” said Jen Pauliukonis, president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, of the gun seizures.

Extreme Risk Protective Orders by county, October 2018

Acting when the courts weren’t open, court commissioners granted interim orders in 61 of the 114 requests, according to the Maryland Judiciary numbers obtained by The Sun through a public information request. District Court judges granted 70 temporary orders. Both interim and temporary orders require individuals to surrender firearms for several days until a final hearing.

“Sometimes that is enough,” Pauliukonis said. “We’re talking about people in a crisis. Sometimes even taking guns away for a week is enough.”

The counties that recorded the most red flag requests were also those that experienced deadly mass shootings in the past year, according to records collected by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office, which has been reviewing the statewide data.

Anne Arundel, which saw the shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper office on June 28 that killed five, recorded 19 requests. Harford County, which had a mass shooting at a Rite Aid warehouse on Sept. 20 that killed four, had 19 requests. Police reports and court documents detail how the accused perpetrators of both incidents had histories of mental illness.

Baltimore County recorded 14 red flag requests, Prince George’s County had nine, and Baltimore City had five.

Both Pauliukonis and Bruce Sherman, an assistant sheriff in Montgomery County who has been reviewing the data, say the lower number of final orders shows the judiciary isn’t rubber-stamping the red flag requests.

The orders are confidential, so Sherman said it’s unclear how many firearms were surrendered, for how long, for what reason or by whom.

Two Anne Arundel County police officers serving a red flag protective order to remove guns from a house killed Gary J. Willis, 61, of Ferndale after he refused to give up his gun and a struggle ensued last week, police said.

Anne Arundel Police Chief Timothy Altomare said the shooting was a sign that the law is needed, while state gun rights advocates called for the law to be suspended and repealed after Willis’ death.

Baltimore Sun reporter Colin Campbell and Baltimore Sun Media Group reporter Phil Davis contributed to this article.

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