Md. House Passes 2 Bills Limiting Gun Access in Domestic Violence Cases

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Maryland House of Delegates approved two measures yesterday that would give judges more authority to take firearms from people accused of domestic violence.

Similar bills had failed in the past year but this year received the support of Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D), who campaigned for the proposals in the name of his cousin, who was killed last year by an estranged boyfriend.

In a statement, Brown thanked the House for its action and urged the Senate to quickly follow suit.

"Last year, 75 Marylanders lost their lives because of domestic violence, and more than half of them by a firearm," Brown said. "Taking guns out of the hands of abusers is a common-sense measure that will protect victims and save lives."

Under one of the bills approved, a judge could order abuse suspects to give up their guns when served with a seven-day temporary protective order if they had threatened violence or threatened to use a gun. The other bill would require judges to confiscate guns from anyone issued a more serious final protective order.

The House rejected a separate measure yesterday that would have made it easier for victims of domestic violence to get state police approval for permits to carry handguns. The measure had received support from gun rights advocates, who argued that women should be able to choose to carry a gun for protection when threatened by violent partners. But victims' advocates opposed it, saying it seemed to endorse injecting firearms into highly charged domestic disputes.

The bill was defeated 86 to 51, along heavily partisan lines, with Democrats opposed and Republicans in favor. Debate over the measure was at times emotional, echoing dramatic floor contests over issues of domestic violence that have occupied the House for more than a week.

Del. Cheryl D. Glenn (D-Baltimore), who last week rose on the floor to passionately recount her own experiences as the victim of violent beatings by an ex-husband in the 1970s, urged the bill's defeat.

"I can tell you as a victim, if I had had access to a gun at my most serious instances of domestic violence, I would have used it," Glenn said. "Killing someone would have changed who I am today."

Glenn's comments persuaded Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George's), who had earlier said she supported the bill, to vote against it.

"It would have changed her as a person," Ivey said. "That made sense to me."

Ivey said she was also concerned about the possibility that victims could be hurt by weapons taken from them by abusers.

But supporters of the measure said that suggestion amounted to an offensive claim that women cannot handle firearms. Under the bill, the state police would have taken into account whether a permit applicant had received a protective order when deciding whether the person's case for carrying a gun was reasonable.

"We often talk about victims' services, and one of the most important things we can do for a victim is to empower them," Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio (R-Talbot) said.

Michael Raia, a spokesman for Brown, said the lieutenant governor was very pleased that the House had defeated what Raia termed a "misguided measure."

© 2009 The Washington Post Company