Lt. Governor Brown Testifies on Behalf of Domestic Violence Bills
ANNAPOLIS, MD (February 19, 2009) – Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown testified today before the House Judiciary Committee in continued support of the O’Malley-Brown Administration’s two domestic violence bills. Lt. Governor Brown testified last week before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. The two bills, HB 296 and HB 302, allow judges greater flexibility to prohibit the possession of firearms by domestic abusers.
“Because of the increasing number of reported domestic violence cases in Maryland, because of the increasing number of domestic violence murders in our state, and because we believe that we have an obligation to make our state safer, the Governor and I have made these bills part of our priority legislation this year,” Lt. Governor Brown said.
HB 302 allows judges to order the respondent in a temporary protective order to surrender any firearms in his or her possession. Currently, the law allows judges to temporarily remove the respondent from the home, award custody of minor children to the petitioner and issue stay-away orders. Maryland’s temporary protective order law does not give judges authority or discretion to remove firearms, even when there is a specific threat of violence. HB 302 gives judges an option, which they currently do not have. HB 296 makes it mandatory for judges to order the respondent of a final protective order to surrender any firearms (handguns and long guns) in his or her possession.
Brown was joined by Howard County Chief of Police William (Bill) McMahon, Baltimore County Chief of Police James (Jim) Johnson, and Prince George’s County Sheriff Michael Jackson. Following their testimony, Brown introduced victims and family members of domestic violence, including Mary Crawford and Janet Blackburn, who shared their experiences with the committee. Dorothy Lennig, Director of the Legal Clinic at House of Ruth, sat on a panel with Ms. Crawford and Ms. Blackburn.
Ms. Blackburn shared the story of her sister, Gail Pumphrey, who was killed with her three children by her ex-husband on Thanksgiving Day 2007. Ms. Crawford told the harrowing story of her ex-husband shooting at her with a hunting rifle while she had a final protective order in effect.
“I am here today because I hope that my story can help one other person realize that they do not have to live with domestic violence. My ex-husband got the gun from a pawn shop before the protective order. He told me it was for hunting purposes. That was the weapon that almost cost me my life. I believe that if this law had been in effect, he would not have had any firearm to use against me at that time,” Crawford said. “I often ask God, ‘Why me?’ Even though I do live in fear constantly, now I am beginning to see that it could be to help someone else to have strength to no longer be a victim, but a survivor of domestic violence.”
In 2007, Maryland district court judges issued approximately 7,654 permanent protective orders. From June 2008 through January 2009, only 132 respondents out of Maryland’s total respondents of final protective orders had regulated firearms registered with the Maryland State Police. Of those 132 respondents only 12 had hunting licenses issued by the Department of Natural Resources. In 2005, 1,181 women were killed nationally by their intimate partners, accounting for over 30 percent of all murders of women.
Last October, the O’Malley-Brown Administration announced the award of $1.8 million in STOP – Violence Against Women (VAWA) Federal funding grants to help victims of domestic violence. The Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention allocated those funds to 63 organizations and agencies across Maryland that encourage the development and strengthening of effective, victim-centered law enforcement, prosecution, and court strategies to combat violent crimes against women and to develop and enhance victim services that address violence against women statewide.
Governor O’Malley last year also signed an Executive Order that expanded the Family Violence Council to include Attorney General Doug Gansler as the Co-Chair. The Family Violence Council was created by Executive Order in 2006, but no formal appointments were made. In January of 2008 Governor Martin O’Malley appointed 21 members to the Council, including Lt. Governor Brown. The Council’s mission is to provide the Governor with timely and accurate information on family violence with recommendations that will reduce and eliminate abusive behaviors. The Council had their first meeting on January 7, 2008. The Council developed three committees: Public Awareness, Data, and Legislative, and recommended that the Governor redefine the Executive Order to include the Attorney General and a member of the public.
Last August, Brown’s cousin, Cathy Brown, was shot and killed by an abuser in her Montgomery Village home.