Article from Reason by Jacob Sullum.

Shortly after 5 a.m. on November 5, 2018, two police officers arrived at Gary Willis’ house in Glen Burnie, Maryland. They were there to take away his guns. They ended up killing him instead.

According to the Anne Arundel County Police Department, the 61-year-old man, who at that hour presumably had just been awakened by the officers’ knocking, answered the door with a gun in his hand. He put it down when he saw who was there. Upon learning that the two officers had come to serve him with an “extreme risk protective order” (ERPO) that barred him from possessing firearms, police said, Willis became “irate” and picked up the weapon again. As one officer tried to wrestle the gun away from Willis, it went off, whereupon the other officer shot him.

Maryland is one of 17 states with so-called red flag laws, most of which were enacted following the February 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. After the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton in August, President Donald Trump endorsed red flag laws as a way of preventing such crimes by disarming would-be mass murderers. But judging from the available data, the court orders authorized by such laws are usually aimed at preventing suicide rather than homicide. The evidence on whether they succeed in doing that is mixed. So far there is no solid evidence that they prevent homicides, even though the oldest red flag law was enacted two decades ago.

One thing is certain: Taking away people’s guns based on predictions of what they might do with them raises thorny due process concerns. That’s especially true with laws like Maryland’s, which authorize broad categories of people to seek ERPOs based on scant evidence and effectively put the burden on gun owners to demonstrate that they don’t pose a threat to themselves or others. While the benefits of these laws are mostly speculative, they inevitably deprive law-abiding people of the constitutional right to armed self-defense, even when it is quite unlikely that they would use guns to hurt themselves or anyone else.

Read the entire article at Reason.

Image Credit: By KAZ Vorpal (Flickr: Declaration of Independence, with Firearm) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons