Only 61 days into the new year, Baltimore had already logged 50 murders. With Charm City on track to break yet another homicide record, the state legislature has once again begun efforts to pass stricter laws against crimes involving guns. The Maryland Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee has approved a group of new bills incorporating many of the measures that Republican Governor Larry Hogan has been championing his entire time in office. The measures would provide stiffer sentencing guidelines for first-time offenders in gun crimes and much tougher penalties for recidivism. Unfortunately, every time they’ve tried this in the past they have been defeated (ironically) by Democrats from the Baltimore area. (Baltimore Sun)
Despite weeks of hostility, a Maryland Senate committee late Wednesday advanced three anti-crime bills, including one that contains large portions of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s top legislative priority ― the Violent Firearms Offenders Act.
The Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee, chaired by Democratic Montgomery County Sen. William C. Smith Jr., passed a raft of tougher penalties for gun offenders in the legislation but only after voting to strip the bill of its six mandatory minimum sentences.
Democrats on the committee opposed such sentencing restrictions because they remove discretion from judges to decide each sentence on its merits.
As you can see from the excerpt above, they couldn’t even get these modest measures out of committee without stripping out mandatory minimum sentences for serious incidents of gun violence. And even then, it wasn’t unanimous. One senator (from Baltimore, of course) still voted against the set of bills, describing them as the “same old tough-on-crime mentality.”
Just because the bills made it out of committee doesn’t mean that they will pass on the floor and reach Governor Hogan’s desk. Stiffer gun crime laws have been brought up in the past, but they have always been defeated by the Baltimore contingent of legislators who make up a significant portion of both chambers. In other words, the elected representatives of the region where the most people are being murdered in acts of gang violence involving guns are blocking the passage of laws to put more of those criminals away for a longer period of time.
The arguments being made against mandatory minimum sentences for violent felons are hollow at best. The Baltimore PD has long complained about the revolving door at the jails and how they are constantly having to track down and arrest the same gang members over and over again. The excuses offered by the Baltimore legislators are always the same. They claim that such laws disproportionately affect communities of color. But when the vast majority of the shootings are taking place in gang territory that is largely comprised of minorities, they should be made to understand that the majority of victims are also members of those communities.
This is a tragic irony in the Maryland legal system. The state has been very proactive in passing gun control laws that only impact law-abiding gun owners. But when it comes to people who are actually committing violent crimes using illegal guns, they sit on their hands and do nothing to get more violent felons off the streets. As with most things in Baltimore, the fault here can no longer be simply placed on the shoulders of the legislators. The citizens of the city keep electing these same criminal-coddling Democrats back to the same offices year after year. Until they take responsibility and start voting for people who actually want to protect them, they’re getting exactly what they deserve, I’m afraid.