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Bill: Protective orders would restrict weapons

February 12, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

ANNAPOLIS -- Alison Munson asked judges more than once to force her longtime boyfriend to give up his knives and guns.

Her final plea came in 2007, seven weeks before police allege the boyfriend, Douglas Wayne Pryor, stabbed Munson to death and fatally wounded Smithsburg Police Officer Christopher Nicholson.

On Nov. 1, 2007, Munson was granted a protective order that forbid Pryor to have contact with her, but his access to guns and knives was not addressed.

Several bills being considered by state lawmakers would make it mandatory - rather than discretionary - for a judge to order those with protective orders against them to surrender all firearms until the order is lifted. The legislation also would make it illegal for those offenders to purchase firearms until the ban is lifted.

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Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore did not return two calls for comment on the proposed legislation Thursday.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, said it is common practice for judges to force people on probation for any offense to surrender their guns. He said a law that holds people who have been proved to be violent to a higher standard would be a good idea.

"They've obviously had some levels of anger and a lack of restraint," Myers said of those with protective orders against them.

Pryor is to stand trial in Montgomery County on first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Munson and Nicholson. He faces the death penalty if convicted in Nicholson's death.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said legislation being considered by the Maryland General Assembly would not have prevented Pryor from having the knife he allegedly used to kill Munson, since it only addresses firearms. He also said the bill would not have prevented Nicholson's death, because Pryor allegedly used someone else's gun in the shooting.

Shank is proposing a bill he said would have protected Munson and Nicholson.

His bill, which was introduced Thursday, would require those who violate a protective order to be outfitted with a global positioning satellite (GPS) tracking system. Shank introduced a similar bill last year.

Shank said his bill would help prevent domestic violence by allowing law enforcement officers to track offenders. If they are within a certain distance of a victim, officers would be notified.

"You're going to know they mean to do harm, and countermeasures can be implemented to protect the victim," Shank said.

Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown testified Thursday before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee in support of two of the domestic violence bills that address the possession of firearms for those with protective orders against them.

"One life lost to domestic violence is one too many," Brown said. "This legislation is a common-sense step toward our goal of making Maryland the safest state in America.

"Last year, 75 of our neighbors were killed because of domestic violence, a majority of them at the hands of a firearm. By removing guns from these volatile situations that have been brought to our attention, we will save lives and prevent other Marylanders from becoming a statistic."

No action was taken on the bills.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said he is pro-guns, but that something should be done to enhance protective orders.

"Protective orders are pieces of paper that, in my view, often inadequately lead to the desired result," Munson said. "We're only talking about pieces of paper, which don't protect anybody. But it's the only tool that we have. We just don't have any other tools to protect people."

He said he worried the bills being considered would not allow for an offender to keep antique, nonworking guns in his or her home.

"I don't think there are any guarantees that the guns would be returned in the same condition," Munson said.

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