Maryland is one of 13 states that has recently enacted a law on extreme risk protection orders. The rise of these laws has been spurred by mass shooting tragedies such as the one that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Lawmakers and concerned citizens have urged the implementation of these measures to help keep guns out of the hands of people with behavioral health issues.
One concern with the new laws is how we determine the likelihood an individual may engage in dangerous behavior. It is likely that past behavior is seemingly the best indication of future issues. As a result, the dialogue has to shift from “blaming” the individuals suffering from behavioral health issues in our society. In order to usher in this shift, Maryland lawmakers presented a bill very similar to what we see in domestic violence situations which includes petitioning for protection or restraining laws for firearms. However, the Maryland law includes a unique provision that it involves reporting by healthcare providers as well as law enforcement and family. Currently, Maryland is the only state using this provision for healthcare providers and there is not much information available as to how this particular law will impact providers.
A logistical issue for providers is the concern of having to physically appear in court before the Judge for determination of issuance of the order. In addition, the law includes provisions that would protect the provider from liability for filing this petition. However, the concern is that the law is silent in regards to whether or not a healthcare provider would be held liable if he/she fails to petition. The consequences of this potential added liability could be significant.
In Maryland, since October 1, 2018, there have been a total of 19 reports that have been generated by law enforcers or family members, none by healthcare providers. A recent event in Anne Arundel County turned tragic when a police officer went to serve the petition to restrict guns to an individual that had been reported by a family member. A struggle ensued and resulted in the officer allegedly shooting and killing the individual.
The next legislative session starts in January 2019 and lasts for 90 days. If you or your facility have concerns please feel free to share them with me and I will forward on to our contact in Annapolis. Our sense is that they will try to remove healthcare provider provision from the reporting mix next January but there is no guarantee. Stay tuned to learn more about any changes to this law and how it may affect your facility.