Gun confiscations under Maryland’s new Extreme Risk Protective Orders, better known as their “Red Flag Gun Law,” claimed their first victim. 61-year-old Gary J. Willis was shot and killed at his home while police were serving a protective order to confiscate his firearms.
Under the new law, which took effect last month, gun owners can have their firearms confiscated through a judge’s order if they are deemed a risk to themselves or others. To be deemed a risk, someone must file a petition with the court. It can be law enforcement, a health professional, spouse, family member, past or present boyfriend or girlfriend, or a current or former legal guardian.
According to reports, Willis answered the door with a firearm in his hand when two police officers went to serve the order shortly after 5 am. He put the gun down, but when the officers served the order he became “irate” and grabbed his gun. One officer tried to take the gun from him but a shot was fired. The other officer shot Willis. He died at the scene. Neither officer nor anyone else in the house was injured.
2 AACo PD Officers serving Red Flag order to remove guns from a house kill man listed on order.
PD: Man answers door at 5:17am armed with a handgun, refuses to drop it. A fight ensues, his gun fires, police return fire, man dies at scene. Ofcrs nor others in house were hurt. pic.twitter.com/4PWQrTFCDp
— Mike Schuh WJZ (@MikeWJZ) November 5, 2018
In a bizarre spin from police, Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare used this incident as an example of the law working.
“If you look at this morning’s outcome, it’s tough for us to say ‘Well, what did we prevent?’” he said. “Because we don’t know what we prevented or could’ve prevented. What would’ve happened if we didn’t go there at 5 a.m.?”
There have only been nine attempts to serve these orders since the law was enacted on October 1. That’s an 11% kill rate on people who may commit a crime in the future.
Maryland’s law is being hailed by many as the prototype for the nation. It isn’t the first but it’s the strongest to date with the widest range of people who can petition the court for action.
All it takes is a good story and a sympathetic judge to take away someone’s guns. In this case, it was a relative of the deceased who filed the petition after an incident that occurred in the beginning of the week. We don’t know the details so there’s no way to judge, but the notion that this incident is proof the law is working is the type of circular reasoning gungrabbers will use to encourage more confiscations.
Maryland officials claim around half of the petitions so far have been approved. That’s a staggering amount for a law that was allegedly intended to be used very cautiously. At the rate they’re being filed, over 600 gun owners will have their firearms confiscated in the first year alone.
What makes this law so dangerous is the fear of missing a shooter. No judge wants to be the first to deny a petition for someone who later commits acts of violence with a firearm. That’s why around half have been granted; if the reasons seem compelling, judges are going to side with the petitioner and force the gun owner to sort it out later in court.
It’s also a decision that’s impossible to get wrong. Who’s to say that if the guns weren’t confiscated that the owner wouldn’t have gone out and harmed themselves or others.
Gun violence in general and mass shootings in particular, such as the Capital Gazette shooting that prompted support for Maryland’s red flag gun law, have many people grasping for solutions. The fear of such events put people in the vulnerable frame of mind of accepting such laws for their own protection.
Laws like these will not help. A closer examination of shooters in recent years indicate trends of expressed anger, mental illness, and isolationist behavior. It seems nearly universal among shooters, especially those who commit premeditated attacks. Unfortunately, these traits are also found in millions of other Americans who would never commit such crimes.
Like I said, all it takes is a good story and a sympathetic judge to take away someone’s rights in Maryland.
Gary J. Willis isn’t dead because he tried to shoot someone. He is dead because someone convinced a judge that he might shoot someone, and now police are hailing this as a success. The PreCrime Departments are pleased with the results.