Mom was 'powerless' to get gun away from suicidal son

Her son was suicidal, but under Maryland law, it was his right to keep the weapon.

Cheryl Brooks was stunned by the phone call she got from her son Peter late in 2013.

The 25-year-old genetic engineer said he'd just bought a gun in 15 minutes and he intended to kill himself.

His mom, a former psychiatric nurse begged him to stop. He agreed.

"He promised he'd get help," Brooks said. "But I could not get him to give up the gun. I was powerless."

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In February of the following year, Peter Lapa-Lilly shot himself to death.

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Brooks was powerless because her son had committed no crime and had not been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility by a judge. Under law, it was his right to keep the weapon.

Legislators in Maryland are now considering a so-called "Red Flag" law that would give judges the power to order the immediate seizure of guns from any individual based on the word of concerned parents, teachers, neighbors or therapists. Court hearings would have to be held within 14 days. The seizure order could stand for up to a year.

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A "Red Flag" law could prevent suicides, domestic murders and mass shootings, according to supporters.

Gun rights advocates warn a "Red Flag" law can be abused resulting in the seizure of guns from law abiding owners with very little due process.

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The proposed Maryland Red Flag law would slap individuals who make false statements or exaggerated claims about others with criminal perjury charges as a protection against abuse.

Six states, including California and Connecticut, have Red Flag laws. A proposal in Virginia failed to win legislative approval in 2017.