Task force looks at guns and domestic violence

6:45 PM, Jul 10, 2013   |    comments
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AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Police, prosecutors and advocates for domestic violence victims all say more safeguards are needed to prevent people accused of domestic violence from getting guns. But they also say there's no way to guarantee it won't happen.

New questions are being asked such cases in the wake of last week's shooting in Calais. Megan Sherrard and her 3-month old child were shot by the child's father, Daniel Pinney, just before he was shot and killed by police.

Pinney was out on bail at the time for a Domestic Violence Criminal Threatening charge against Sherrard, and a judge had also imposed a Protection From Abuse order in the case. Police and prosecutors say both orders required Pinney to relinquish all his guns - which he apparently did. State Police say they believe Pinney complied with those orders, but then got a gun from someone else to go after Sherrard.

Domestic violence groups say the Calais case is a classic example of what happens in Maine with guns and domestic violence suspects. The Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence says current state law does not do enough to ensure suspects actually do turn over their guns. Julia Colpitts of the MCEDV says some other states, such as Ne3w Jersey, have tougher laws that make it easier for police to search a suspect's home to make sure there are no guns.

A special; state task force, chaired by Col. Robert Williams of the Maine State Police, is now working to identify ways to tighten Maine laws to keep more domestic violence suspects from having guns. Col. Williams says it's a complex issue, because the Constitution has safeguards against unreasonable searches. Williams says police need probable cause to get a search warrant, and that the task force is not likely to recommend any sort of mandatory search process. He did say the inability to search and to know how many guns a suspect actually has are major problems with the system now.

Task force member David Trahan of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine says he wants to see more restrictions on who holds guns that are given up. Police, prosecutors and activists say its common for a suspect to give guns to friends or relatives to hold, but later pressure those people to give the guns back.

Police and prosecutors agree they can't create a perfect system, and can't guarantee a suspect won't somehow get a gun. Colpitts says that points to the issue of requiring universal background checks for all gun sales, including private sales. A move to create such a law was narrowly defeated last month in the Maine Legislature.

The task force on domestic violence and guns will release its report later in the summer.

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