Armed and dangerous

Our view: Restraining order should disqualify abusive spouses from owning guns

March 06, 2009

It ought to be a no-brainer that domestic violence and guns don't mix.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld that common-sense principle when it stripped anyone convicted of a crime of domestic violence of the right to own firearms.

The decision should give a boost to two bills in the Maryland General Assembly that would allow judges more discretion to take weapons away from abusive partners who are subject to court-issued restraining orders.

In the federal case, the justices ruled that a 1996 law that extended the federal ban on gun ownership by felons to anyone convicted of "a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence" applies even to states where domestic violence isn't a crime. Prosecutors in such states generally charge abusive partners with assault or battery instead.

Nationally, domestic violence claims the lives of three people every day, on average. One of the Maryland bills would essentially extend the federal ban on gun ownership by convicted abusers to anyone under a final restraining order. The other would give judges discretionary power to confiscate guns from people against whom temporary restraining orders had been issued.

In both cases, the weapons would be held by the state until the orders were lifted.

The proposed law might have saved at least some of the 42 victims of domestic violence who were killed by firearms between July 2007 and July 2008, including 17 suicide victims who turned guns on themselves after assaulting their partners.

Those grim statistics, compiled by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, should give lawmakers all the more reason to enact this sensible effort to empower judges to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusersand guard against future tragedies.

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