Safe at Home: Taking Away the Guns

Lt. Julie Funt's full-time job is keeping track of all the guns seized by the Montgomery County Sherriff's Office.

"It just goes on and on," she said as she pulled out a long, white cardboard box from a shelf filled with dozens of others just like it. Inside, multiple handguns carefully tagged and secured.

They’re all owned by someone accused of domestic violence who can no longer possess them under Maryland law.

"We've been able to actually go in and seize literally hundreds of firearms,” Sheriff Darren Popkin said. “Because we know if we take firearms out of the equation, then the victims in this case are much more likely to be safe."

In 2009, Maryland passed the law requiring sheriff's deputies to confiscate all firearms from anyone with a final protective order filed against them for as long as the order is in effect, which can last as long as two years.

Many weapons end up in the secured room for longer than that because of repeat offenders, Popkin said.

While the law only applies to firearms, the sheriff will occasionally seize knives. Funt displayed a machete with a foot-long blade and explained, “She was scared and said, ‘Can you take that?’"

At the same time, Popkin pulled out a serrated knife more than nine inches long and asked, "What exactly are you using this for?"

Lt. Funt nodded and added, “No one wants that in their face." 

Popkin said he thinks the law is working because they have not had a fatality linked to a protective order filed in Montgomery County since at least 2010.

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Instead, the county’s domestic violence fatalities happen when people don't ask for their help, according to Popkin.

“We do a review of each of these type of fatality type cases, and in each case they did not come forward," he said. "They did not come to the court. They didn't seek intervention. They stayed home and they thought, they hope that it would go away, and they just couldn't come forward and, unfortunately, they lost their life."

Popkin said he and his deputies are trained and ready to seize a gun and other weapons if you're worried they could be used against you.

But they can only help you if you get a protective order.

"It takes incredible courage for someone to actually pass through the doors to come into the courthouse," Popkin said. "But as we tell anybody who would walk in, the protection level that you have when you actually seek court intervention brings you a much higher level of safety than if you do nothing."

Reported by Tisha Thompson, and shot and edited by Steve Jones.

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