The Baltimore County burglar who helped trigger an ongoing constitutional challenge to Maryland's handgun laws shot himself to death, police said, after he assaulted his estranged wife and beat his parents with a pipe.
Police found Kris Lee Abbott dead Monday in his Hampstead home, where police said he had barricaded himself after a domestic dispute.
An earlier confrontation made Abbott a key figure in the challenge to the state handgun law. In 2002 he broke into the home of his father-in-law, Raymond Woollard, who then sought a concealed-weapon permit for protection from Abbott. When Woollard was denied the permit — authorities said he had not shown a direct threat — he sued the state. Abbott pleaded guilty to third-degree burglary in 2003 in connection with the incident.
News of Abbott's death sparked a renewed debate over Maryland's handgun laws.
"Obviously the state has no clue when crime might occur or who might suddenly find themselves facing a violent criminal. That's why the Second Amendment prepares us," said Alan Gura, Woollard's attorney.
The Washington-based Second Amendment Foundation took on the case, arguing that Maryland unnecessarily restricts the right to carry firearms. A federal district judge agreed, striking down as unconstitutional the requirement that a permit seeker show state police a "good and substantial reason" to carry a gun.
But in March, a federal appeals court reversed the decision and upheld Maryland's handgun permit law. Gura said he has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.
Cody Jacobs, a staff attorney with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said the latest incident does "not change our position that law enforcement should have discretion" to decide who has the right to carry a gun in public. He said the state's law is reasonable.
Police were called about 6:20 p.m. Monday to the house in the 4400 block of Mount Carmel Road for an "unknown trouble call." After a standoff, tactical officers found Abbott about 10:30 p.m. They also recovered a rifle.
Investigators determined that Abbott had been involved in a domestic dispute with his estranged wife, Dawn Abbott, 45, and his parents, Russell Abbott, 78, and Virginia Abbott, 76.
During the dispute, police said, he pushed Dawn Abbott to the ground, damaged a vehicle with a metal pipe, and then used the pipe to assault both of his parents.
After the attack, all three victims ran to a nearby residence, and Kris Abbott barricaded himself inside his home, police said.
Virginia Abbott, of the 5100 block of Byerly Road in Upperco, was flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center with serious injuries, police said. A hospital spokeswoman said Abbott was released Tuesday.
Neither her husband nor Dawn Abbott was transported for hospital treatment. They could not be reached for comment.
Alan Brody, a spokesman for the Maryland attorney general's office, said the incident is not relevant to the Woollard case. "That case is still in the court system," he said, but declined to comment further.
Vincent DeMarco, president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence,said, "The courts upheld Maryland law, and Maryland law is keeping Marylanders safe. We should retain it."
Regardless of this week's incident, Patrick Shomo, president of Maryland Shall Issue, a nonprofit based in Annapolis that works to preserve gun owners' rights, remains convinced that the state law is overly restrictive.
"It is somewhat irrelevant from a constructional standpoint," he said of the Monday shooting. "Our argument all along had been, you might not like the Second Amendment but respect the law."
He said a right to carry permit should not be dependent upon one's ability to prove a threatening circumstance.
"People need the ability to protect themselves and their family," he said.
State Del. Nicholaus Kipke,a Republican from Anne Arundel County and the House minority leader, said the fact that Abbott had access to a gun shows that gun restrictions are not a cure for violence.
"People have a right to self-defense," said Kipke, who earlier this year gave an NRA membership to a student who was suspended for biting a pastry into the shape of a gun. "Increasing gun laws creates a false sense of security."
County police spokeswoman Elise Armacost said the county is still investigating the ownership of the rifle Abbott used to shoot himself.
His body has been taken for autopsy at the state's chief medical examiner's office.
Police said no motive or cause for the dispute was immediately available.