“Baltimore leaders on Friday proposed changing city law to require a mandatory one-year sentence for illegal gun possession in much of the city — within 100 yards of a school, park, church, public building or other public place of assembly.
The bill would prevent any part of the one-year sentence from being suspended, and preclude those with such convictions from receiving parole.
Mayor Catherine Pugh said she’d like to do more to restrict guns, but “this is what we can do locally” without changing state law.
Pugh acknowledged that there is a church or a school “on nearly every corner” in the city, and said “as it relates to this legislation, that’s a good thing.”
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis praised the bill as a much-needed change to help the city address its soaring violence. Baltimore is on pace to surpass 300 homicides for the third year in a row. Before 2015, that mark hadn’t been reached since the 1990s.
Davis said more than 60 percent of individuals with gun convictions in the city since the start of 2016 have had more than half of their sentences suspended. He said the city does not have a problem with legal gun owners, but with illegal gun offenders intent on committing violent crime who are not afraid of being caught with a deadly weapon.
“It’s about holding the right people accountable,” he said.
Davis noted that the restriction of the measure to illegal gun possession within a certain distance of specific locations is what makes the provision legal under Maryland law. Broader changes to gun sentencing would require legislation at the state level — which Davis has sought unsuccessfully for years.
Maryland Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Rowe wrote that such a bill “would be permissible” in a July 5 letter to Del. Curt Anderson, a Democrat who is chair of Baltimore’s House delegation in Annapolis.
City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young said he would introduce the bill Monday. He said it would serve “as a tool to help get the most dangerous and violent repeat offenders off the streets of Baltimore.”