Maryland has some of the toughest gun laws in the U.S. The Giffords Law Center recently rated it an A- on its annual scorecard, ranking it sixth in the nation behind California, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. It recently passed a “red flag” law, which allows police to temporarily seize weapons from people believed to pose a threat to themselves or others. It takes effect in October. Yet, 24-year-old David Katz was still able to legally buy the two handguns he used in a shooting during a “Madden NFL” tournament in Jacksonville, Fla. on Aug. 26.
Katz had a long history of mental health issues and encounters with law enforcement, but none of it was enough to disqualify him from buying a gun in Maryland, according to The Washington Post. The Post reports he spent weeks at two mental health facilities in 2007, then spent a few months at Utah’s RedCliff Ascent Wilderness Treatment Program in 2008. Police were also summoned to the family’s home on multiple occasions for domestic disputes, according to the paper.
While federal law states people who are involuntarily committed to mental institutions can’t buy guns, it’s not known if Katz was involuntarily committed at the time. Maryland law also prohibits people from buying guns if they’re involuntarily committed or voluntarily admitted for more than 30 consecutive days, but neither of Katz’s stays reached that threshold, according to The Washington Post. Katz was a minor during that time, and Michelle Horner, assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, told the publication minors are not considered involuntarily committed if their parents consent on their behalf.
“The parent can have a child institutionalized, whether [the children] want to or not,” Horner said. “They’re the ones who consent. Of course we always involve the patient … but it’s really the parent who decides that for the child.”
Even if Katz was involuntarily committed in 2007, the facilities that treated him may not have been required to retroactively report his stays, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health professor Joshua Sharfstein told The Washington Post.
Katz was reportedly in Jacksonville for the Madden Classic qualifiers taking place at the GLHF Bar at the Jacksonville Landing when he decided to open fire on his fellow gamers. Two pro “Madden” players — Taylor “SpotMePlzzz” Robertson and Elijah “Trueboy” Clayton — were killed in the shooting. Ten others suffered gunshot wounds, but are expected to recover. An additional person suffered a non gun-related injury. Katz took his own life after the shooting.
At least one of the survivors has filed a lawsuit against the GLHF Bar and “Madden NFL” publisher Electronic Arts. The suit claims the venue and the publisher were negligent and failed to provide proper security for the tournament. Electronic Arts, meanwhile, has canceled the rest of the Madden Classic qualifiers and said it’s conducting a “comprehensive review of safety protocols for competitors and spectators.” It’s also donating $1 million to the shooting victims and their families, and hosting a tribute livestream on Sept. 6 to honor Robertson and Clayton.