State lawmakers rejected on Thursday an attempt to make it easier for domestic violence victims to arm themselves. Victims advocates had opposed the idea, noting the danger of mixing guns and abuse.
The attempt came in the form of a controversial amendment to a bill that would require judges to confiscate guns from the subjects of final protective orders. Supported by Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, that domestic violence initiative was approved earlier by the House without the victims amendment.
Sen. C. Anthony Muse, a Prince George's County Democrat, said he suggested the amendment, which would have eased gun-licensing procedures for people awarded protective orders, because he wanted to "open a dialogue" about helping victims protect themselves. Muse, a pastor who has presided over funerals of abuse victims, said those who are "helpless and in utter fear" should be able to get guns. Five Republicans on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee supported the move, and the amendment was approved by one vote.
But the 47-member Senate reversed the committee's decision Thursday by a vote of 29-17, almost entirely along party lines.
"To arm someone in an emotional situation is wrong," said Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, a Baltimore Democrat. Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, a Baltimore Democrat, warned of "unintended consequences," such as the victim accidentally shooting a bystander and facing criminal charges.
Sen. Alex X. Mooney, a Republican representing Frederick and Washington counties, argued that all citizens should have a right to carry firearms, and he said he saw this proposal as "a small step" in that direction.
The Senate vote means O'Malley can sign his final protective order measure into law. Only one senator did not vote on the Muse amendment: Muse.