Bills to take guns from abusers near passage

April 08, 2009|By Julie Bykowicz

The General Assembly appears set to approve legislation to confiscate firearms from suspected domestic abusers. Backed by Gov. Martin O'Malley, the two measures - expected to gain final passage Wednesday - would allow judges to take guns from the subjects of temporary protective orders and would require that they do so in the case of final protective orders.

O'Malley sought to strengthen the civil protective order process after several high-profile domestic violence killings, and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, whose cousin was shot to death last summer by an estranged boyfriend, testified before two legislative committees about the importance of the bills.

Under current law, judges cannot order that guns be confiscated in temporary-order cases, even if the petitioner fears they will be used. Such orders last seven days and are often granted without hearing from the accused. Final orders last a year and come only after the petitioner and respondent testify.

Judges can order that guns be turned over, but they are not required to do so. The proposed state law would bring Maryland into line with federal law, which prohibits anyone under a final protective order from possessing a handgun.

Lawmakers agreed to both measures but added a requirement that the judge must determine that a petitioner is in fear of being harmed or intimidated by a gun before ordering its confiscation in a temporary order. Lawmakers also spelled out how the guns are to be stored and returned. If O'Malley signs the bills as expected, they would take effect Oct. 1.

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