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The battle to get guns away from domestic abusers continues

The subject of gun control is without a doubt one of the more divisive, emotional ones in this country. The many and varied opinions surrounding the right to own a gun are reflected in the statutes throughout the country that allow revocation of people's right to own or possess a firearm if they are involved in an incident of domestic violence or have a protective order taken out against them.

There's no question that guns play a significant role in domestic violence. According to the FBI, between 2008 and 2012, over 3,400 people were fatally shot during a domestic dispute. Data indicates that more people are shot to death by intimate partners than by people they don't know.

Under the Violence Against Women Act, which Congress reauthorized last year, most people are prohibited from possessing or purchasing guns if their spouse or other intimate partner has a full protective order against them. However, there are loopholes that allow people with temporary protection orders to retain their weapons. Additional pieces of related federal legislation are under consideration.

State statutes vary on important details like for how long weapons can remain confiscated and where the confiscated weapon is kept. In some cases, a family member is even allowed to keep it.

According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Maryland has stricter laws than some states when it comes to domestic abusers and firearms. It is one of six states that "require subjects of domestic violence protective orders to surrender all firearms...regardless of the circumstances leading to the order." Maryland law enforcement officers may legally remove guns from a location where an act of domestic violence has occurred. However, they are not legally required to do so.

These battles surrounding domestic abusers' access to firearms are being fought throughout the country, with gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association on one side and domestic violence prevention advocates on the other. In the meantime, many victims of domestic violence are left vulnerable to armed attack by their abuser.

Maryland residents who are concerned for their safety and/or that of their children or pets should seek help. If you don't have family members or friends with whom you can seek shelter, there are multiple sources of help available. It's also important to have sound legal assistance to secure protective orders and take other actions necessary to help protect yourself and your family.

Source: Casa Grande Dispatch, "Efforts focus on getting guns away from abusers," Brittany Elena Morris and Allison Griner, Carnegie-Knight News 21, June 04, 2015

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