New city law calls for mandatory jail time for gun offenders

Ordinance to be taken up by council next week
Posted at 1:15 PM, Jul 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-14 18:47:13-04

If passed, the illegal possession of a handgun in Baltimore would come with mandatory imprisonment of one year; no suspensions, no parole, no probation before judgement.

Even that is not as strict as Mayor Catherine Pugh would like, but she says it is a start.

"What we realize is that we can’t do the law we want to do on the state level, but we can do this law. We even had the attorney general say to us that we can do this law and so we are doing what we can," Pugh said.

What she hopes this bill does is force the hand of the courts to put people behind bars for illegal gun possession.

With few exceptions, you would not be able to carry a gun within 100 yards of parks, churches, schools. Public buildings or other places of public assembly.

The ordinance, which will be introduced at Monday night's council meeting by Council President Jack Young, was designed to be tough on the fearless gun play currently plaguing this city.

"It is just another tool in the tool box for them to use against the type of folk that are wreaking havoc on the city of Baltimore. We can't make excuses, we have to have solutions," Young said.

Because according to police, more than 80 percent of the city's murders are committed with handguns.

Numbers prepared by the Baltimore Police Department also claim most gun offenders, even if convicted, currently serve little to no time.

"If I am a gun offender and I am charged with illegally possessing a firearm, what I know now in Baltimore is that it is 60 percent likely that nothing is going to happen to me. Nothing. Suspended sentence, even upon a guilty finding," said Police Commissioner Kevin Davis.

But defense attorneys like Jeremy Eldridge say the impact of this ordinance isn't that cut and dry.

"You can't just deny the fact that it will have unintended consequences that no one is going to want."

He and others are concerned that taking discretion away from the judges and prosecutors may snag legal gun owners up in this mandatory minimum sentencing guideline.

"You have to think how does this effect the entire population and the bottom line is we are legislating around a problem instead of dealing with the problem and the problem is a failure to use the very strict gun laws that already exist," Eldridge said.

Still, most branches of city government seem lined up behind this proposed ordinance.

Noticeably absent from today’s press conference though was the Baltimore City State's Attorney.

Marilyn Mosby simply released a statement saying, “The use of illegal handguns in the primary contributor to the countless lives lost senselessly on our streets.  I am committed to holding criminals who wreak havoc in our city accountable for their action and support all efforts to strengthen gun control.”

This ordinance will be introduced Monday night and go straight to the judiciary committee first thing Tuesday morning.

There is also an effort to make this state law.

State lawmakers said today they will work to push through a version of this Baltimore specific bill through the legislature this coming winter.

It would still only affect Baltimore, but it would make illegal possession a felony with a mandatory 5 years in prison.

Baltimore Delegate Curt Anderson (D) feels confident it could pass.