ANNAPOLIS — New gun-control laws are taking effect in Maryland next week, and some state lawmakers already are talking about strengthening them in the next legislative session after high-profile shootings in the state.
An Associated Press review of firearms-related legislation shows many other state legislatures mostly fell back into predictable and partisan patterns after mass shootings in Las Vegas and Parkland, Florida.
Maryland was one of the Democratic-controlled legislatures in states with already strict gun-control laws that approved new gun-control laws this year.
One of them, known as a red flag law, enables families and law enforcement to ask courts for an order to temporarily restrict firearms access to people found to be a risk to themselves or others. Some legislators say they will consider widening the scope of people who can seek court action after high-profile shootings in the state. The law, which takes effect Monday, only allows police, medical professionals, close relatives or dating partners to seek a court order.
A law banning bump stocks, which can increase a semi-automatic rifle’s firing rate, also takes effect Monday. Bump stocks were used in the mass shooting in Las Vegas last year that killed 58 people and wounded hundreds.
Another law taking effect Monday in Maryland requires convicted domestic abusers to surrender guns to law enforcement or a firearms dealer. Domestic abusers already are prohibited from possessing guns, but because of a loophole they were not required to give up guns they already owned before conviction.
Maryland has been shaken by highly publicized shootings this year. In March, Jaelynn Willey was fatally shot by a classmate at Great Mills High School in southern Maryland before the 17-year-old gunman shot himself to death. In June, a man with a shotgun attacked The Capital newspaper office in Annapolis, killing five employees.
Last month, A 24-year-old Baltimore man opened fire at a Florida video game tournament, killing two people and wounding 10 others before he fatally shot himself. Authorities said the shooter had shown abundant signs he was struggling with a mental disorder. Last week, a woman killed three people at a Maryland warehouse before she shot herself. Authorities said she had been diagnosed with mental illness in 2016, but had legally purchased the handgun she used in the attack.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and his Democratic rival Ben Jealous were asked at a gubernatorial debate Monday what they could do to prevent those kinds of killings in the future. Jealous said Maryland needs to stem the flow of illegal guns in the state and treat the problem as a mental health crisis.
“In our schools, we don’t need more guns. We need more social workers and psychologists to work with young people who are experiencing a mental health crisis as well,” Jealous said.
Hogan, who signed the laws taking effect Monday, said he has long been a strong supporter of tougher laws to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and people with a criminal background. He noted the red flag law he supported “to make sure that we can have more of an ability to take away guns from people that are mentally ill.” He also noted mandatory sentences for people who commit crimes with a gun.
“It’s tragic, and there’s no easy answer,” Hogan said. “We have the toughest gun laws in America, but I’ve moved to make them even tougher and to try to make sure that we cover some of these loopholes,” Hogan said.
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