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Amended handgun sentencing bill passes Baltimore City Council

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Posted at 11:15 PM, Sep 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-12 07:21:58-04

By an 8-7 vote, Baltimore City Council passed a bill that would toughen penalties for some criminals caught with handguns.

The original proposal, written by Mayor Catherine Pugh's office, forced a mandatory one year sentence for anyone convicted of carrying a handgun near a public gathering place. Over several months, the bill was "watered down" to only target those using guns for crimes or 2nd offenders.

"I'm pleased that we got something passed," said Councilman Eric Costello, a supporter of the bill. "It's not perfect but that's the legislative process."

See also: Controversial city gun bill advances, dividing community, City Council

Councilman Brandon Scott voted against the amended bill. He says that mandatory minimums don't work when it comes to reducing crime and that Baltimore requires a smarter approach targeting the source of the problem.

"The people who are selling these guns, the people who are doing the straw purchases, the people who are selling the ammo that they're getting. That should be the wholistic approach," said Scott.

RELATED: Baltimore City Council to consider minimum 1-year sentence for illegal handguns

The man leading Baltimore's Police Department through historic levels of crime, Commissioner Kevin Davis, disagrees.

"We have a long way to go," said Davis before the vote. "If you possess an illegal gun in New York City, you're going to jail for three and a half years."

He says tougher gun penalties dropped the homicide rate in the Big Apple over time, but Baltimore's history is turning this issue into an emotional debate.

"A lot of folks harken back to the 80's and the 90's when you had the mandatory minimum federal sentencing guidelines regarding drug crimes. Well, this isn't a drug," said Davis. "You're not addicted to carrying a gun. You're not a victim because you carry a gun."

The next stop for this issue may be Annapolis, according to Davis, where he says Mayor Pugh and himself will push for stronger sentences during next year's legislative session.