Action in the Maryland General Assembly

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Domestic Violence Bills Forwarded to O'Malley

The Maryland General Assembly has given final approval to legislation that will make it easier for judges to confiscate firearms from domestic violence suspects, a top priority of the legislative session for Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Last night, the Senate passed two bills dealing with protective orders and sent them to O'Malley (D) for his signature. One of the bills, passed on a 31 to 15 vote, gives judges the option of removing firearms from people issued seven-day temporary protective orders after being accused of threatening violence.

The other, approved 32 to 15, requires that judges order the confiscation of guns from those who are issued final protective orders.

O'Malley has argued that the bills will make victims of domestic violence safer by making it harder for their abusers to respond to legal action with a firearm. The legislation has found a champion in Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), whose cousin was shot and killed by an estranged boyfriend last year.

Opponents said the measures would give victims a false sense of security because abusers determined to do harm would find a way, even if legal access to guns was restricted.

Also last night, the House gave final approval to another O'Malley priority: extending the availability of unemployment benefits to part-time workers. That measure passed 92 to 41.

-- Rosalind S. Helderman and John Wagner

SWAT Reporting Requirements Approved

A measure inspired by an incident last summer in which law enforcement officers shot to death a small-town mayor's dogs is headed to Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) for his signature. The law will require every law enforcement agency in the state with a SWAT team to report every six months on its activities, for the next five years.

Reports are to include statistics about how often SWAT teams make arrests, serve search warrants, fire their weapons or kill or harm humans or animals.

Passage of the legislation was urged by Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo, whose two black Labrador retrievers were killed during a botched drug raid on his home by a Prince George's County Sheriff's Office SWAT team and county police officers.

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