Hearing on city gun bill expected to draw crowd

Posted at 4:24 PM, Jul 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-25 08:02:57-04

Baltimore City Councilman Eric Costello isn't hedging, he thinks the proposed ordinance requiring a year in jail for the illegal possession of a handgun is an effective way to curb gun violence and will help marshal it through his part of the legislative process.

He is confident the proposed ordinance will survive Tuesday's hearing and head back to the council floor next month for its second reading, but he won't do that without public testimony from those for or against it.

Costello says the hearing will be organized, statements timed and the process designed to hear from as many voices as possible for as long as that will take.

"Hard to say. I don't expect public testimony until about an hour and a half into the hearing, but this one is going to be a marathon," Costello said.

Councilman Zeke Cohen will be a voice against tomorrow.

"I can't support this legislation," Cohen said.

Echoing his op-ed published today, the councilman said he doesn’t believe mandatory sentences work and will urge a more complete approach to curbing violence by investing in programs like Safe Streets and fixing the city's witness protection program.

"My approach is, we need a comprehensive vision toward reducing violence, but not mandatory minimums."

Cohen is just one of a circle of voices scheduled to testify tomorrow.

Costello says more than 40 people or organizations have already signed up to speak including those against the legislation like the NAACP, and those for like Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis.

"I'm gonna offer some testimony in support of the mayor's bill as introduced by Council President Jack Young and I think we will have some supporters and we will also have some detractors,” Davis said, “That is what democracy is all about."

This hearing is scheduled for Tuesday at 10 a.m.

Costello says he will call for a vote after the hearing and expects it will make it back to the full council for round two.

If the votes for the bill hold, passage could be as early as next month.