- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

ANNAPOLIS

Gov. Martin O’Malley conceded Tuesday that he failed in his all-out effort this year to repeal Maryland’s death penalty, supporting a state Senate bill that instead further restricts capital punishment.

“We wanted to go as far as we could with the repeal bill, and this is as far as we could go,” said Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, who spoke before the House Judiciary Committee on a compromise bill passed by the Senate earlier this month.

Mr. O’Malley made his comments as the General Assembly came a step closer to deciding on a contentious plan to strip gun-ownership rights for suspects in domestic abuse cases, which along with the death penalty repeal was a key item of Mr. O’Malley’s 2009 legislative agenda.

The Senate bill limits death penalty cases to those that have DNA evidence, videotaped evidence, or a videotaped confession.

Though Mr. O’Malley failed to win a full repeal in his third year, the Senate proposal is still a victory, considering that Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. would not allow a full debate on the issue in the governor’s first two years.

Mr. O’Malley accepted the Senate plan when Mr. Miller said earlier this month he would not debate changes.

“It represents progress over a very flawed status quo,” Mr. O’Malley said.

However, limiting gun ownership for suspects of domestic abuse, as passed Tuesday by the House, would be a more clear-cut victory for the governor. The House also rejected a bill that would allow certain victims of domestic violence to be eligible for a handgun permit.

The approved bills now go to the Senate, which held a hearing last month but has yet to vote.

The House votes were a blow to state lawmakers supporting broad gun rights, who said the bills were an abridgement of constitutional rights.

“We see it as your coming to take our guns,” said Delegate Michael D. Smigiel, Eastern Shore Republican. “What we have here is an attack on the constitutional rights of the citizens of Maryland.”

One of the bills regarding the domestic-abuse suspects states that even in the event of a temporary protective order, a judge has the right to order the suspect to surrender his firearms.

“You don’t even have a chance to be present to tell your side of the story. No due process. It [the bill] says we’re going to come based on an accusation to confiscate your private property, which is constitutionally protected,” said Delegate Anthony J. O’Donnell, Southern Maryland Republican and the House minority leader.

Supporters of the bill that would have allowed certain victims of abuse the right to seek a handgun permit, said being armed gives victims a fighting chance to protect themselves.

“This is an issue of individual liberty and the ability to protect yourself,” said Delegate Susan K. McComas, Harford Republican. “It’s an individual choice.”

Opponents of the bill said passing it would have made an already dangerous situation even more volatile.

“This is an awful idea,” said Delegate Cheryl D. Glenn, Baltimore Democrat and a victim of domestic violence. “Don’t mix that emotion, that situation with a gun.”

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