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Slain officer's family closer to receiving Nicholson's service weapon

Md. Senate wants gun to be made inoperable, House says it can be in working order

March 28, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland General Assembly is on the verge of approving a bill that would let the family of Christopher Nicholson, a slain Smithsburg police officer, receive his service weapon.

But the question is whether the gun — a 9 mm Beretta 92F — will be in working order.

So far, the Senate said it can’t, and the House of Delegates said it could, as reflected in bills those chambers have passed.

The original version of the bill said a law-enforcement agency “may render the handgun of the deceased officer inoperable before transferring the handgun” to the immediate family.

But the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee balked and would only approve the bill if it required that the gun be made inoperable.

Sen.Christopher B. Shank, a sponsor of the bill, told the committee that Nicholson’s family wanted the gun as part of a memorial display. Sen. Jamin B. “Jamie” Raskin, D-Montgomery, for one, said if that’s the case, the gun should no longer be usable.

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As the committee asked more questions, Shank said he’d concede on the operability issue if it would help the bill pass.

Christopher Nicholson’s father, Larry Nicholson, a correctional officer, started asking last year about the possibility of getting his son’s weapon.

Last month, before the bill was heard in House and Senate committees, Larry Nicholson toldThe Herald-Mailhe wanted the gun to be operable when he received it.

He couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

It’s not clear which version of the bill will prevail. The House and Senate must approve the same version before it can be sent to Gov. Martin O’Malley to potentially sign into law.

Shank, R-Washington, presented the Senate version, with the inoperability requirement, to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. He explained the current difference in the House and Senate versions, but didn’t lobby the committee to act one way or the other.

Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, who sponsored the House version, said he hasn’t decided whether to press the same Senate committee to strike the inoperability amendment when he presents his House bill there.

The House passed its version 138-0. The Senate passed its version 45-0. Both bills are in the opposite chambers for consideration.

Christopher Nicholson was shot and killed while responding to a call on Dec. 19, 2007.

His killer, Douglas Pryor, was sentenced to life in prison for murdering both Nicholson and Alison Munson, with whom Pryor had two children.

Nicholson’s family has collected items from his time as a police officer as part of a memorial.

Current state law allows police officers’ guns to be sold or transferred in a variety of ways, but the Nicholson family’s situation didn’t qualify.

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