A new law may help deter domestic gun violence in Maryland.
On October 1, 2018, Maryland’s “Red Flag” law went into effect. By late November, more than 170 complaints had been filed. The law allows law enforcement to seize weapons from individuals considered at risk for committing gun violence. The Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) law was passed to reduce risk to citizens with a credible fear of domestic violence. The passage of the law followed high school shootings in Florida and Maryland.
Though controversial, the Red Flag law offers law enforcement a way to immediately confiscate firearms and ammunition from a person posing a risk to others. With an ERPO, law enforcement is aiming at the means to kill—guns.
An ERPO is not a personal Protective Order. Two other Orders are available for victims of domestic or other violence. These are Protective and Peace Orders. When granted, neither of these Orders allow confiscation of weaponry. Peace or Protective Orders are provided for reasons that include:
- Require a person to have no contact with the person who files for the Order, or others
- Cause an threatening individual to leave a residence and stay away from that residence for a period of time
- Prohibit an individual from harassing or threatening an individual or others
Of the Red Flag law, Montgomery County Sheriff Darren Popkin noted, “There is no doubt in my mind this is saving lives. Family being involved is a very critical piece of how this is working out.”
Statistics show that 75 of the 172 ERPO complaints filed after the law went into effect related to domestic violence—meaning a threat or actual violence between people in a family or other relationship. When entered, an ERPO has the following impact:
- Requires an individual to immediately surrender firearms and ammunition to police
- Prohibits an individual from buying more ammunition or weapons
Like Protective Orders, ERPOs are not entered lightly by the court. Criteria that must be present for the consideration of an ERPO include:
- An individual in possession of an illegal firearm, or who demonstrates negligent or reckless behavior with weapons
- Threats of violence, alarming statements or actions, substance abuse
- Earlier violation of a Protective Order or other record or information that demonstrates an individual is at risk of firearm violence
If you are being threatened with domestic violence, speak with a family law attorney or contact the police directly about your concerns. Along with Protective Orders, an ERPO could be a life-saving tool to help you and your family out of a dangerous situation.
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