Mary Crawford is alive today because her estranged husband wasn't a very good shot. During an argument in their Carroll County home in 2001, he pulled out a shotgun and twice fired at her and missed. At the time, she had a restraining order against him. But the law did not require that her husband surrender his gun despite his history of threats and abuse. Now, Ms. Crawford is a compelling advocate to change Maryland law to keep guns out of the hands of spouses and others with a record of domestic violence.
Gov. Martin O'Malley has proposed legislation that would strengthen protections for victims of domestic violence by allowing a judge to confiscate guns from a recipient of a temporary protective order. A second bill would require a judge to remove the guns from a person against whom a final protective order has been issued. The law would apply to both hand guns and rifles. The companion bills would give state judges the same authority that federal judges now have in these matters.
Ms. Crawford's experience is not unique. Jessica M. Jacobsen of Timonium was shot and killed outside her home in September 2007 by her estranged husband, Jeffrey. He had been ordered by a judge to stay away from the couple's Baltimore County house, but was there that day to pick up his two sons. After shooting his wife, he turned the gun on himself and died.
Previous legislative efforts to keep guns out of the hands of people with a demonstrated problem of family violence have languished in a House of Delegates committee. Gun rights advocates should realize that the O'Malley legislation gives judges who hear initial requests for a restraining order the option of deciding whether to seek removal of someone's guns. Judges should at the very least have that right.