May 1

Bill That Would Require Domestic Violence Offenders to Give Up Their Guns Fails in Maryland

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This month, Maryland lawmakers voted against a bill that would have required courts to order those convicted of domestic violence in Maryland to transfer all firearms in their possession to a federally licensed arms dealer. Though Maryland law already prohibits possession of a firearm by anyone who has been convicted of a violent crime, abusers are often not ordered to do so.

Though gun rights are a nationally divisive issue, keeping guns out of the hands of those convicted of domestic violence related crimes is an area where some lawmakers were hoping for increased consensus. In the last two years, more than a dozen states have passed similar laws. The bill is one of several gun restriction measures to fail in the Maryland state legislature this year, including legislation for gun-free college campuses and barring individuals on terrorism watch lists from possessing firearms.

This bill was not the only attempt to broaden penalties for domestic violence in Maryland that failed to pass. A failed amendment to bill SB0924 would have broadened the definition of domestic abuse in the Maryland Family Law Code to include serial harassment and malicious destruction of property, as opposed to the current definition, which defines “domestic abuse” as an act that causes bodily injury or fear of imminent bodily harm. Opponents raised concerns about the language of the amendment: the term harassment is currently defined as maliciously engaging in a course of conduct that alarms or seriously annoys another, which lawmakers criticized as vague enough to potentially increase the number of false accusations for harassment.