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Mental illness does not prohibit gun ownership in Maryland

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Local,Crime,Naomi Jagoda,Gun Control,University of Maryland,Prince Georges County

Less than a month before authorities say Dayvon Green shot two of his roommates and killed himself, the 23-year-old legally purchased an Uzi rifle that was found among the weapons at the crime scene.

Although police said Green suffered from mental illness, under Maryland law, people are not barred from purchasing guns exclusively because they have a psychological disorder.

Maryland restricts the mentally ill from possessing a firearm if they have a history of violent behavior against themselves or others. People also can't buy guns if they have stayed at a mental health treatment facility for more than 30 consecutive days. Both of these restrictions can be overruled with a physician's certification.

Additionally, under federal law, someone cannot purchase a firearm if he or she has been charged with a crime and found to be either not criminally responsible or incompetent to stand trial.

A Maryland state task force wrote in a report earlier this year that it did not believe that mental illness alone should disqualify someone from permanent restricted access to firearms. Instead, the group recommended that any changes in the state's law focus on those who are inclined to commit violent acts.

The task force recommended in its report that counselors, physicians, probation agents and similar professionals should be required to report verbal or physical threats to law enforcement and that police officers be allowed to seize weapons from those who threaten violence.

A hearing on House Bill 1133 is scheduled for March 1 in Annapolis.

- Naomi Jagoda

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