Baltimore Gun Laws: Right Question, Wrong Answer

And there I was reading an editorial at weblogs.baltimoresun.com thinking halle-frickin’-lujah! Finally! A gun control piece that attacks the “revolving door” problem that leads to firearms-related violence. Here, read this. Just prepare yourself for the foreshadowed let-down: “Before Saturday’s shooting, Mr. Gross had been charged with four previous gun-related crimes, including armed robbery and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Yet despite receiving sentences in 2008 totaling 17 years, he was back on the streets just 26 months later . . .

To police, prosecutors and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, it seems obvious that given the seriousness of Mr. Gross’ crimes he should have been locked up longer. That he was able to regain his freedom so quickly was largely due to plea bargains, concurrent sentences, credits for good behavior behind bars and other procedures that grease the prison system’s revolving door for gun offenders. The result is that nearly half the people arrested on gun charges in the city go on to commit more serious crimes of violence.

OK, so, tighten the laws re: plea bargains, concurrent sentences and credit for good behavior for criminals convicted of firearms-related crimes and call it good. Yes? No.

That’s why Mayor Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III plan to press the legislature again this year to stiffen the penalties for first-time illegal gun possession from the present 30 days to a minimum of 18 months, with up to 10 years in prison for the most egregious cases.

They also want to reclassify illegal gun possession from a misdemeanor to a felony and increase the penalty for felons caught with an illegal gun to a mandatory minimum of five years with a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison . . .

Mayor Rawlings-Blake wants to send a clear signal that being caught with a loaded, illegal firearm will get you substantial jail time, even for first offenders.

Does anyone see the danger here? Let’s say an otherwise upstanding citizen (a.k.a. a good guy or gal) feels threatened. They decide to buy a gun illegally to protect themselves or their family. OK, that’s bad. But is it a good idea to lock them up for 18 months?

What if an out-of-stater doesn’t know Baltimore’s gun laws and gets busted with a gun that’s legal in his or her home state? What if a gun owner simply fails to renew their permit?

Gun. Crime. Gun crime. Which one of these things is not like the other?