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Maryland protection orders don’t always mean no guns allowed

As part of the recently renewed attention on the nation’s gun control debate, more than one national media source has reported on the interplay between firearms and domestic violence protective orders. While some states require those who get served with a protective order to immediately surrender their firearms, Maryland is not one of those states.

As an Ann Arundel County domestic violence lawyer would likely explain, in Maryland a judge must issue what is called a “final” protection order before a suspected perpetrator of domestic violence would be required to turn over his or her guns to law enforcement. The upshot to this is that the suspected perpetrator would have the opportunity to be heard at a court hearing before losing his or her rights to possess firearms.

Logically, this means that the alleged perpetrator will have advance notice of his or her court date and will not have to give up firearms immediately, even though he or she has already been served with a protection order. This setup can make for a dangerous situation, especially if the person reacts violently in response to the protection order.

In one case that has been reported, a man against whom the man’s estranged wife received a protective order eventually located her and fatally shot her before killing himself.

On the other hand, Maryland does at least give victims of domestic violence some mechanism for ensuring that their abuser does not have possession of a firearm that the abuser could later use to harm or kill his or her victim. Some states do not require that a person served with a protective order surrender his or her firearms under any circumstances.

Perhaps the time has come to re-think Maryland’s domestic violence laws and revise them so as to afford more protection against gun violence. Until that time, however, the best domestic violence victims can probably do is get in front of a judge as quickly as possible in order to get a final protection order that may include a requirement that an alleged abuser surrender his or her firearms.

Source: MSNBC, “Restraining orders often don’t require a surrender of guns,” Evan Puschak, March 15, 2013.

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