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?

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

2 Responses to Baltimore Gun Laws: Right Question, Wrong Answer

  1. avatarDan Baum says:

    Uh, Robert. If you're not responsible enough to know the laws, or if you choose to break the laws, or are too sloppy to stay abreast of the laws, are you responsible enough to own a gun? Christ almighty, dude. You like to beat your spoon on your high chair that we should be "enforcing the gun laws we have," and yet when Baltimore does, you complain about it. That's bad for us lawful gun owners. Makes us look like hypocrites and impossible-to-please types. Like we're moving the goal posts and all that. "Enforce the laws we have" is a good position. "Punish people who misbehave with guns and leave the rest of us alone" is likewise excellent. Don't retreat from that high ground by then making excuses for people who don't behave like adults. Perhaps we need to switch you to decaf….

    • First of all, ignorance may be no excuse under the law, but it should be a factor come sentencing time. As should intent. I'm all for harsh penalties for gun crimes. But I'm also in favor of a legal system that's just. Some gun crimes are more criminal than others—especially if we're comparing someone who used a gun for robbery, assault or rape vs. someone seeking to defend themselves from same. Which Maryland makes it extremely difficult to do. (Lest we forget, Maryland is a "may issue" state.

      Second, we're not talking about Baltimore enforcing current gun laws. The pols want to change the laws. They want to increase the penalty for a first-time firearms offense. More minimum jail time. More mandatory jail time (no judicial discretion allowed). And a change from a misdemeanor to a felony.

      Third, why so nasty Dan? Bang my spoon on my high chair? You obviously have some anger issues surrounding firearms. Go on, let it out. What's got you so pissed off?

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