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Woodlawn incident could have been prevented by use red flag law | READER COMMENTARY

A pile of rubble is all that remains of the Parkview Crossing townhome of Everton Brown in Woodlawn. Police shot and killed Brown Saturday, May 8 after he set fire to his townhome then shot four neighbors, killing three of them. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun).
A pile of rubble is all that remains of the Parkview Crossing townhome of Everton Brown in Woodlawn. Police shot and killed Brown Saturday, May 8 after he set fire to his townhome then shot four neighbors, killing three of them. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun). (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun)

In the recent article, “Bewildering’: Neighbors say a peace order, calls to cops did nothing to curb Woodlawn man who went on killing spree Saturday” (May 10), The Sun lays out how law enforcement failed to act on the shooter’s clear history of threatening behavior, culminating in the murder of three people and the destruction of two Baltimore County homes last week.

Maryland is one of 19 states that has an extreme risk protection order (ERPO), a civil tool that could have allowed law enforcement to petition a judge to intervene and remove the guns from this situation before this tragedy occurred and prevent the shooter from making future firearms purchases. Maryland’s ERPO law was passed and signed by Gov. Larry Hogan in 2018 following the tragic mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. The law, commonly referred to as a “red flag law,” empowers law enforcement, family members and health care providers to petition a court to temporarily remove a gun from those who pose a danger to themselves or others. This proactive approach has saved lives across the country. But it can only save lives if it’s used.

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The shooter was well known in the community for his dangerous and erratic behavior. He routinely harassed his community from his front porch, expressed paranoia that the police and federal law enforcement were monitoring his activities and would parade around the neighborhood while displaying a gun in a threatening manner. These are the type of warning signs that, when left unaddressed, can lead to tragedy. ERPO laws are effective for exactly this reason: The greatest indicator of future violent behavior is past violent behavior.

Like the shooting at a FedEx facility in Indiana last month, this tragedy could have been prevented. Maryland’s ERPO law is one of the strongest in the country — but the state legislature should fully fund ERPO implementation efforts and law enforcement must be adequately trained and equipped to utilize this tool. Above all, key stakeholders and the public should know that these critical public safety resources are available to them to prevent gun violence in their communities.

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Governor Hogan, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. and leaders across Maryland must commit to making sure every Marylander knows about this tool and every law enforcement agency is equipped and trained to petition for an ERPO equitably. Maryland has made great progress as a national leader in gun violence prevention and statewide ERPO utilization. But the horrible tragedy in Woodlawn shows that we still have more work to do.

It is past time to implement, fund and educate the public about this lifesaving tool. With true commitment and leadership, we can save lives in Maryland.

Andrew Patrick, Catonsville

The writer is director of political communications for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

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