MARYLAND

Maryland task force aims to regulate gun buying laws

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The Prince George's County man who allegedly threatened to shoot up his workplace was released from a mental health facility Tuesday. Police say he possesses more than a dozen weapons. Now, Maryland officials and  advocates are working to prevent those with mental health issues from obtaining weapons and prevent potential tragedies.

It's a seven-day process to get a gun in Maryland and involves a background check, along with a mental health screening. Yet over the past year, Maryland has had multiple cases in which someone with a mental illness threatened or used a gun to commit a crime.

Prince George's County State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks  said, "We've seen a really disturbing trend in terms of individuals possessing unregulated firearms who suffer from mental illness, who have long documented histories of mental illness."

Alsobrooks is part of a new task force that will analyze Maryland's gun laws.  She says the goal is to ensure no one with a severe mental illness can own a firearm.

Alsobrooks added, "We've seen it not only here in Prince George's County and but now across the county."

On its gun application, Maryland requires gun buyers to admit if they've been admitted to a mental health institution for more than 30 consecutive days.

But it's an honor system. State police can't access private medical records.

Gun owner and District Heights resident Myron Keenan said, "I think it should be more extensive to get a gun. If you don't want to go through what it takes to be a gun owner then you shouldn't have a gun. "

Experts at the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Arlington says stricter laws simply reinforce a negative stereotype about the mentally ill.

Ron Honberg, director of Policy and Legal Affairs for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said, "There is some perception that people with mental illnesses are violent, but the truth couldn't be further from that."

The task force plans to meet regularly to evaluate regulations and will present recommendations to law makers.

But for now, it seems a brief questionnaire is the only barrier.

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