Prosecutors in Maryland are asking the General Assembly to approve a bill that would create penalties for people who threaten to commit acts of mass violence.
Prince George's County state's attorney Angela Alsobrooks says Maryland is one of just a few states where a "legal loophole" exists making it impossible for prosecutors to punish people making the threats.
"Where individuals call in a threat, saying 'I'm going to kill everyone in the place,' and that's not a crime in Maryland. It is a crime to say 'I'll burn down the building,' but if you say 'I will instead shoot up everyone in the building,' we do not have a law that covers that," she explains.
Prince George's County has seen two high profile cases where such threats have been made. In one, a man threatened a shooting spree at his Lanham workplace, while the other occurred when a University of Maryland student allegedly plotted a shooting on the College Park campus. In the first case the man was only charged with misuse of a telephone, while in the second the student faced misdemeanor charges of disturbing the peace and computer misuse.
The bill, which would make such threats punishable by a 10-year jail sentence and hefty fines, has failed before in Annapolis, but Alsobrooks believes tweaks made this year will ensure that only serious mass threats are punished.
"Five or more individuals have to be affected. We're not talking about neighbors disputing or domestic cases, which are covered under current assault laws. We're talking about massive threats."
The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee must approve the bill first before it can head to the full Senate floor for a vote.