Deadly domestic games

Our view: State senators should roundly deny gun lobby's attempt to sink a bill that would protect victims of domestic abuse from threatening spouses

March 24, 2009

We've said it before and we'll say it again: Firearms and domestic violence don't mix. So why is the Maryland Senate trying to wreck a bill intended to protect victims of abuse by tacking on an amendment that would keep guns on the table in domestic violence cases? This is cynical politics at its worst.

The bill, sponsored by Gov. Martin O'Malley, would require judges to confiscate firearms from partners who are under final restraining orders as a result of domestic violence. The rationale is obvious: Given the explosive nature of abusive relationships, the presence of any firearm can quickly turn deadly.

The House of Delegates approved the measure without change. But last week, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee added an amendment that would also force judges to make it easier for domestic violence victims to get guns of their own. Take away one partner's firearm and give it to the other? That's crazy. It defeats the whole point of trying to get guns out of the equation.

There is no evidence - zero - that owning a gun makes a victim of domestic violence any safer. But there's plenty of data suggesting a gun in the house greatly increases the risk of a tragedy occurring - by accident, homicide or suicide. In the volatile emotional atmosphere of violent domestic disputes, easy access to a gun by either partner can only make things worse.

That's why it's hard to see the Senate amendment as anything but a cynical ploy by gun rights advocates to hobble the bill with so many incompatible aims that it sinks under the weight of its contradictions.

The Senate should jettison this noxious amendment when the bill comes up for a full floor vote; if not, the conference committee charged with reconciling the House and Senate versions must refuse to abide such a transparent act of legislative sabotage. Otherwise, the cost of lawmakers' folly will be paid in blood by the very people whom the governor's measure was intended to protect.

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