A Maryland task force of police, mental health advocates, and gun rights representatives has begun a look at whether Maryland laws governing gun access by the mentally ill should be changed, says the Baltimore Sun. Questions the 17-member panel will consider include whether the 30-day state hospital stay that triggers a prohibition on buying firearms should be changed, whether the criteria for finding someone dangerous should be changed, and whether there should be a court process for restoring gun ownership rights.
“We want to make sure that any conclusion that is based on a psychiatric diagnosis is fair,” said Laura Cain of the Maryland Disability Law Center. In addition, she wants to ensure that any recommendations for changes in the law for mentally ill people are not “so overly broad that their privacy rights are infringed upon.” Capt. Jack McCauley of the Maryland State Police, a co-chairman of the panel, is concerned that someone will not seek psychiatric care for fear of turning up in a state database. A prosecutor said her office is seeing an increase in gun use by people who have psychiatric problems. “We are seeing more and more persons that appear to have some mental health issues and we are finding that they are in the possession of firearms — they are using these firearms,” said Tara Harrison, deputy state’s attorney in Prince George’s County. Some obtained the weapons legally. Nevertheless, some have spent a decade in and out of state mental hospitals, without a 30-consecutive-day stay that would bar gun ownership.