Baltimore Democrats don't want Larry Hogan to rein in gun violence

It’s no secret that the city of Baltimore, Maryland is in the middle of a violent crime crisis and has been for several years now. 2019 saw a new record in the per capita murder rate and 2020 isn’t starting off any better, with the city averaging more than one murder per day. Governor Larry Hogan has promised to do something about it and this month he unveiled a new crime bill that would finally toughen up penalties for gun crimes and close the revolving door of gang members parading in and out of jail.

So what have the Democrats in the legislature done about it? They’re preparing to shoot it down, of course. And the interim mayor of Charm City is backing them up. (CBS Baltimore)

Citing their opposition to mandatory minimum sentences, Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly say they are unlikely to pass Gov. Larry Hogan’s top priority this session ― the Violent Firearms Offender Act ― infuriating the governor who alleges lawmakers aren’t taking shootings in Baltimore seriously.

In an interview with The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday, Hogan argued that lawmakers who don’t support his legislation are out of touch with the views of most Marylanders and should step down from their leadership posts. On a table in his office at the State House, he spread out his internal polling results that show residents overwhelmingly want “tougher sentences for violent offenders who commit crimes with guns.”

Democrats in the Assembly are saying that bill won’t even make it out of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, so there won’t be a chance of a full floor vote or debate. Their objections are based on the removal of judicial discretion for a number of gun crimes in favor of mandatory minimum sentences. But judicial discretion is a large part of the reason the city is dealing with a murder rate that’s worse than you would find in some war zones.

The Democrats are also arguing that the city of Baltimore already passed tougher gun laws two years ago, but they’ve done nothing to stem the violence. That’s a disingenuous argument, however, because the new law only applied in certain parts of the city and provided only one year in jail for illegal possession of a firearm. That was an improvement over the previous average of six months (!) but it’s still a laughably short stretch for most of the hardened gang members.

The same Democrats are arguing that what Baltimore really needs is better enforcement of existing laws. They note that police only made 20,000 arrests in 2019 compared to an annual average of 100,000 when Martin O’Malley was the mayor. Also, the homicide clearance rate has fallen to just 32%. But why not do both?

The Baltimore PD released data showing that the average homicide suspect arrested in Baltimore has eight previous arrests. They don’t have the resources to closely monitor all of the violent criminals who are out on parole, so the same shooters wind up being arrested over and over again. They believe that fewer than 100 gang members are responsible for the lion’s share of the murders in the city, but they can’t keep them off the streets.

A recent poll commissioned by the Governor’s office showed that 85% of residents were in favor of tougher sentencing guidelines for gun crimes. But somehow the Democrats they keep electing to the state legislature aren’t listening to them. If you can’t hold your elected officials to account, they’re not going to take violent criminals to task. So why do you keep sending these people back to office year after year?

The Governor’s crime bill won’t end gang violence in Charm City entirely, but it would certainly get some of the worst offenders off the streets and keep them there for longer. It would be a solid start if nothing else. The fact that the Democrats are willing to flush the effort without even having a full debate is a disgrace.

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David Strom 8:01 AM on March 27, 2023