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Md. senator to remove name from disqualifying crime gun bill

A Maryland senator said he is removing his name from a bill that included probation before judgment for second-degree assault in a domestically related case as a disqualifying crime for gun ownership.

Under Maryland Senate Bill 224, which address the definition of a disqualifying crime, a person would not be able to possess a firearm if they received probation before judgment for a crime of violence or crime that is domestically-related.

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A disqualifying crime currently would not include probation before judgment for second-degree assault, but the new bill, if enacted into law, would make probation before judgment for second-degree assault in a domestic violence case a disqualifying crime.

Sen. Justin Ready, R-District 5, is listed as a co-sponsor on the bill, but when asked about it, he said that he does not support the bill and was planning to remove his name.

"The problem is this, probation before judgment is not a conviction," Ready said.

If the bill is enacted as a law, those who had one bad offense would lose their constitutional rights to own a gun, Ready said.

There is also a companion bill in the house that lists Del. Trent Kittleman, R-District 9A, as one of the co-sponsors. The house bill would also make probation before a disqualifying crime in the case of a domestically related second-degree assault.

For Senior Assistant State's Attorney Brenda Harkavy, who specializes in domestic violence cases, the bill is a good thing because it closes a loophole.

As the law stands now, people who received probation before judgment in a domestically related crime were disqualified from owning a gun. But probation before judgment for second-degree assault was an exception, which made it hard to determine whether it applied or not, Harkavy said.

What the bill would do if enacted into the law would make it so anyone who received probation before judgment on a second-degree assault in a domestic violence case would be unable to own a gun.

"I think the best thing is it clarifies what was previously murky territory," she said.

It's important because firearms are the most frequent weapons used in domestic violence homicides, and domestic violence typically doesn't happen just once, Harkavy said.

Harkavy cited the American Journal of Public Health, which says the risk of homicide in a domestic violence situation increases by 500 percent if a gun is involved.

"So the statistics are pretty outstanding," Harkavy said. "So that's why the change in the law is pretty important."

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