The slayings of five people in a Maryland newspaper office last week is not only tragic for those individuals’ families and friends, but it chastens our hopes of preventing gun violence.
Maryland has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, and yet the grudge-fueled killer Jarrod Ramos slipped through the cracks, bought a shotgun, and killed five innocent people working at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis.
On the surface, Ramos is exactly the type of person who should be denied the ability to purchase a gun and to have any guns that he owns seized from him based on threatening behavior:
● He was convicted in 2011 of harassing a woman and using threatening language.
● The woman continued to obtain restraining orders in 2012 and 2013, showing that he was not deterred by his conviction.
● He threatened the newspaper in 2014 saying he had a “sworn legal oath” to kill the reporter who wrote a story about him.
● He continued to issue tweets with barely concealed threatening language against the newspaper, staffers by name, and a Maryland judge who threw out his totally meritless libel lawsuit.
Maryland’s new “red flag” law, passed after the mass shootings in a high school in Parkland, Fla., which has yet to take effect, could have have helped. Maryland will be one of 11 states that authorize “extreme risk protection orders,” giving judges authority to strip firearms from individuals shown to be a threat to themselves or others, even if they are not accused or convicted criminals.
We need an “All of the Above” approach to stopping the epidemic of mass violence.
The Ohio General Assembly should take up and pass a “red flag” law, such as the one that Gov. John Kasich has advocated, and should consider the circumstances in Maryland.
Police officers and judges must set a lower threshold when it comes to harassment, threatening, and stalking complaints. All such complaints must be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent possible.
Laws should be amended to allow authorities to ascertain whether any person accused of threatening behavior has weapons and seize that weapon. The laws prohibiting people convicted of certain kinds of crimes from owning guns should be toughened to include all convictions in which threats are expressed.
And while there is no evidence that Ramos heard of the President’s frequent attacks on journalists as “the enemy of the American people,” the President, of all people should tone down such rhetoric. Many of us in America should tone down our rhetoric. Rhetoric does not cause violence, but it feeds the hate machine, which in turn, feeds violence.
We need a higher awareness of and commitment to civility in this country. But, more than this, police and judges must be more vigilant about people who threaten.
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.