Maryland Steps Up to Reduce Preventable Gun Deaths

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Maryland is one of 12 states to enact an Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) law, otherwise known as a “red flag law.” These are civil orders that temporarily, and involuntarily, restrict a person’s access to a firearm during a high-risk period, and are an innovative step forward to reduce suicides and homicides. Because this is a civil order, it does not result in a permanent ban on firearm possession, and any confiscated firearms are returned to the owner when the order expires.

And more importantly, Marylanders are using the law.

People pause for a moment of silence next to a memorial

Capital Gazette Memorial in Annapolis, MD, July 2018. (Delmarva Now)

As expected, the National Rifle Association has challenged ERPO laws around the country and have called for Maryland gun owners to oppose the new rule during the 2018 General Assembly session. The NRA has expressed support for ERPO laws, but with strict conditions that would strip the law of its protective benefits by delaying firearm removal and essentially duplicate existing involuntary commitment procedures.

Maryland Shall Issue urged Governor Larry Hogan (R-MD) to veto the bill last year but was not successful. They are expected to challenge the law, citing similar complaints as the NRA in written testimony to the General Assembly last year.

Limiting access to a firearm for people at risk for suicide has been a hot topic over the past decade, especially at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which serves a population where 20 veterans die by suicide each day, two-thirds of which are carried out by firearm. Although the VA cannot lobby for specific bills, they have outlined the importance of addressing firearm access among high-risk veterans in its new strategic plan.


Summary of Gun Laws enacted in 2018. (NYTimes)

Several organizations have rallied behind the law in Maryland. The Maryland Psychiatric Societysupported the bill during the 2018 General Assembly and continues to assess its clinical use as the bill matures. Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence also supported the bill and currently holds regular community forums to educate the public on its use.

Suicide prevention is a top VA priority, and red flags laws give clinicians, inside and outside the VA, additional tools to reduce preventable premature deaths. It is critical to continue to show support for these bills as the law matures and more states adopt similar measures.

One Response to “Maryland Steps Up to Reduce Preventable Gun Deaths”

  1. purnimaparthasarathy Says:

    Gun violence in the US and lack of suitable gun control laws is a debate we see everytime there is a fatal shooting whether in schools or elsewhere. I agree that the Maryland law is a good first step. It has always been confusing for me as to how gun possession in the US is so easy, despite the many instances of suicides/accidental deaths/mass shootings directly attributed to gun possession. The powerful lobbying by the NRA is simply shocking. Australia had a mass shooting in Tasmania in the 1990s, which led to sweeping reforms in gun control laws. Possession of semiautomatic weapons and shot guns were banned, and more hurdles were erected for prospective buyers (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-35048251). But the greatest impediment to changing laws in the US seems to be the Second amendment: right to bear arms…. I do hope some laws are put in place to reduce senseless violence against innocent victims.

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