ANNAPOLIS, Maryland — Emergency legislation that would streamline penalties for those convicted of threats of mass violence — brought about by an increase in threats of mass shootings made in recent years — has passed the Maryland Senate and is advancing in the state House.
This new legislation, which would simplify the state’s ability to prosecute perpetrators threatening to commit an act of mass violence, was prompted by attacks like the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida last year and threats such as those made to the University of Maryland, College Park in 2012.
Regardless of whether it is carried out, threatening to commit a crime of violence is only prosecuted under the state’s current criminal law if five or more people are in reasonable fear for their safety, and if a threat caused them to evacuate, move to or remain in a “dwelling, storehouse or public place.”
“As prosecutors, we have to identify the five people (and) confirm they were in reasonable fear, which means the police have to do that investigation,” Andrew Rappaport, states attorney for Calvert County, said during a Senate bill hearing on Feb. 7. “With social media, which is the vehicle for many of these threats, it is difficult to identify the five specific people.”