Maryland’s red-flag law has enjoyed a successful first two years, getting guns out of the hands of people who are a danger to themselves or to others.

But in the aftermath of a recent mass shooting in Indiana, now may be a good time for the supporters of the law to reassess and make any changes that would improve it.

Brandon Hole, who shot and killed eight people at a FedEx warehouse in Indianapolis, might have been prevented from purchasing the semiautomatic rifles used in the attack if a prosecutor had invoked the state’s red-flag law.

Hole’s mother told police last year that her son was suicidal and that he might try to confront police with a shotgun to commit “suicide by cop.” As a result, police seized the shotgun.

But, according to news reports, the senior county prosecutor in Indianapolis said his office had decided not to seek a protective order which could have prohibited Hole from buying more guns. The prosecutor said the law was flawed, with short filing deadlines and limits on getting evidence such as medical records.

Maryland police and prosecutors have been aggressive in using our law. The Baltimore Sun reported last October that, in the two years since the law took effect in 2018:

“Maryland courts have granted 989 extreme risk protective orders, an average of about 8.2 orders per year per 100,000 residents. Only Florida has used it more, about 9.4 orders per 100,000 residents.”

Montgomery County Sheriff Darren Popkin, a strong advocate for the law who trained most of the state’s police departments on the law, told the Sun: “If these were not in place, there potentially could have been some additional suicides.”

Not much research has been done on the effectiveness of the red-flag laws in getting guns out of the hands of unstable individuals, but the Sun cited a 2017 Duke University study of Connecticut’s gun removal law that estimated that for every 10 to 20 seizures, one suicide is prevented.

Maryland judges approved 55 percent of the orders sought in the first two years. Gun rights advocates said that was alarmingly high, but Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith of Prince George’s County, the prime sponsor of the law, said she thinks the acceptance rate actually shows the law is working well, noting only about half of the gun owners had their weapons confiscated.

“I’m really proud of the Maryland law,” she said. “We’ve had great usage, in some jurisdictions more than others … It’s a good tool to start fighting this epidemic of gun violence.”

One problem identified by Valentino-Smith is that health care providers, who were specifically included in the law as a group that could seek protective orders, are not using the power.

“The success of the law is up to petitioners,” she said. “People have an obligation to use it. Health care providers are not using it enough.”

The delegate resisted the suggestion that the law might need to be modified to be stronger. She said she thinks any issues arise from people not knowing enough about the law, or about how to use it.

We respect Del. Valentino-Smith’s opinion, but we encourage her and the other authors of the Maryland law to take a look at the problems in the Indiana case and then meet with police and health professionals to assess how the law is working in the real world.

We continue to believe it is vital to take guns out of the hands of mentally ill individuals who represent a danger to themselves or others. The red-flag law seems to be saving lives, particularly among people who are suicidal. But we should also try to make it as effective as possible as a tool for reducing gun violence.

(4) comments

Greg F

I'm sure red flags will be used as retaliation on others. Plenty of situations where there are disenfranchisement and estrangement of family members who in retaliation will swear their relative gun owner did something to justify a red flag...just to p*ss them off by having his guns taken away just before hunting season. Wouldn't that be a cruel trick to play on a hated relative? Hmm...lots more I'm sure someone with ill intent could come up with...including Government officials who could just as easily concoct something to take away rights. It surely would not be the first time.


Maryland SWAT Team Serving Red Flag Warrant Shoot, Kill 21-Year-Old Man Asleep In His Bed 3/13/2020

“I’m really proud of the Maryland law,” she said. “We’ve had great usage, in some jurisdictions more than others … It’s a good tool to start fighting this epidemic of gun violence.”

"Gun laws", because all know violent criminals obey the law!

What Percentage Of Mass Shootings Happen In ‘Gun Free Zones’? The Number Is Stunning: 98% By Amanda Prestigiacomo, Feb 22, 2018


I remember that case was covered in FNP. A terrible tragedy. That young man didn’t need to die.


Thanks, Sniper. That young man certainly did not need to die. The crime he committed as a juvenile was a property crime in which no one was hurt. Neither he nor his family was informed that his right to bear arms had been prohibited, He bought the guns at a licensed shop in Rockville and filled out the required forms. The Montgomery County police never attempted a non-violent search - not a letter, email, or phone call. They could have detained him while he was away from his home (and guns) and then searched, but they didn't. Indeed, they observed him and his fiance out of the house for over an hour just a day before the no-knock raid. The first thing they did was break his bedroom window at 4:30 in the morning, as he and his pregnant girlfriend slept, and throw in a flash-bang grenade, which is designed to disorient, and start shooting within seconds. How could he have heard an announcement that the attackers were police, if it was even given? A search warrant should not be a death warrant. No knock, no justice, no peace.

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