Maryland has become the 6th state to pass an Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) law. The law is in response to many different shootings throughout the country. The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence praised the new law, claiming it will remove guns from people who pose a danger to the public and themselves.
Legislators and community advocates are pushing for the ERPO laws because of concerns many of the shooters could have been stopped if family members and others could have petitioned the courts that the potential shooter was a serious risk. As the Gifford Law Center explains, the ERPO “allow families, household members, or law enforcement officers to petition a court directly for an order temporarily restricting a person’s access to guns” as well as to ammunition. Failure to turn the weapons over will be charged as a misdemeanor. The ERPO can be extended, too, if necessary.
The law allows the people who know the loved one best to take active steps to arm that person. According to the Giffords Law Center, people who enter a mental health crisis center often show signs they may pose a risk. The Law Center stated that “80% of people considering suicide give some sign of their intentions and 38 out of the 62 mass shooters in the last 20 years were reported as displaying signs of dangerous mental health problems prior to the killings.”
An FBI study of shooters between 2000 and 2013 showed that a typical shooter “displays four to five signs of risky behavior often related to the shooter’s mental health, problematic interpersonal interactions, or other signs of violent intentions.” Other studies confirm that mental health concerns play a role in the mindset of many shooters.
Current Federal law
The Giffords Law Center reports that someone who is suffering from mental health illness can still purchase and possess a gun, unless he or she:
- Has been formally and involuntarily committed to a mental health facility
- Has been found guilty of a crime by reason of insanity
- Has been adjudged mentally ill through some other court proceeding
Violent acts do not preclude gun ownership unless the person has:
- Been convicted of a felony
- Been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor
- Is subject to a current domestic violence restraining order
Maryland’s laws are stricter than most
Maryland has been very active in creating gun laws that restrict access to guns. For example, if a final protective order is issued against you for domestic violence, you must surrender your firearms. What the ERPO aims to do is make it impossible for you to get those firearms back – a critical issue if you have a security clearance, or work in a field that requires a firearm.
The rights of ERPO defendants
Respondents to these ERPO petitions do have rights: the person who request the ERPO doesn’t automatically “win.” A defendant has the right to contest the petition. Depending on your exact circumstances, we may:
- Contest that you have a mental health issue or a proclivity towards violence
- Assert a defense based on your Constructional rights
- Challenge the validity of the evidence used in securing the ERPO
At Carey Law Office, we want people to be safe from gun violence, but not at the expense of the laws and the civil liberties all Americans are entitled to, under the Constitution. The burden is on the government to prove its cases. For help now, please call 301-464-2500 or complete the contact form to schedule a free consultation at our offices in Bowie or Crofton.