Sheena Blandford might still be alive if the judge who issued a final protective order against her abusive husband had also confiscated the gun he used to murder her. Ms. Blandford clearly feared for her life when she applied for a protective order in August after her estranged husband, Theodore Blandford, threatened to kill her.
But on her petition for court protection she failed to check a box requesting a judge to confiscate her husband's firearms - even though she indicated elsewhere on the same form that he had a gun. Two weeks later he used it to fatally shoot Ms. Blandford and her sister, Cheryl Timmons, in the Blandfords' Lothian home.
The Maryland General Assembly passed a law in April intended to protect victims of domestic violence against trigger-happy spouses. The law, which goes into effect Oct. 1, gives judges discretionary power to confiscate the guns of abusive partners against whom temporary protective orders had been issued and makes it mandatory for abusers under final protective orders to surrender their weapons. But it's too late to help the victims of this crime.
Why didn't Ms. Blandford check the box requesting a judge to confiscate her husband's gun? Was it an oversight, or did she fear he might become even more violent and abusive if provoked?
Theodore Blandford had a lengthy criminal history going back to 1985; in June he was arrested for robbery in Crofton, and he was a suspect in a May burglary in Prince George's County. By any rational standard, he had already forfeited his right to gun ownership.
In fact, it's hard to see why any judge looking at this case wouldn't have ordered him to surrender his firearm immediately - whether or not Ms. Blandford had checked that particular box on a form. Recognizing the need for such an obvious preventive measure shouldn't have been solely the victim's responsibility.
Gun rights advocates often argue that the problem is people who commit crimes, not their firearms. If Mr. Blandford hadn't had a gun, they say, he would have used some other weapon to murder his wife - as he indeed had threatened to do by running her over with his truck or bashing her head with a hammer.
Even so, there's no question that firearms make any domestic confrontation potentially more lethal - and not only for the victims of domestic violence but also for the police who are called on to intervene in such disputes.
After killing his wife and her sister, Mr. Blandford fled the scene and led police on a 20-minute chase into downtown Washington that ended only when he turned the gun on his pursuers and was shot to death by officers risking their lives to apprehend him.
Could the terrible loss of that day have been prevented if a judge had confiscated his gun? It's impossible to know. But surely it's a tragedy that a law that could save the lives of future domestic violence victims came too late for Sheena Blandford, her sister and the man who killed them.