BALTIMORE (WJZ)— Most first-time gun offenders in Baltimore serve no time behind bars and top Baltimore City leaders are pushing to change that.
Mike Hellgren has the mayor’s case and who’s helping her make it.
Police swarmed Park Heights Avenue. A shooting at a grocery store left one person dead. This is an example of the brazen, gun-related crimes that have Baltimore’s top leaders pleading with Maryland legislators for tougher gun laws.
Among those helping them make the case, Nicole Harris, whose father—former City Councilman Ken Harris–was gunned down in 2008. She recently spoke to WJZ.
“Charles McGaney was found with a gun one year before he murdered my father and he was only given 85 days in jail,” Harris said. “This should be a wake-up call to city officials and legislators that one of their colleagues was taken.”
First-time gun offenders in Baltimore serve an average of four months in jail; 82 percent of them serve no jail time at all.
“We can change the culture of guns on the streets, not just in Baltimore but statewide,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
The bills would mandate an 18-month sentence for anyone found in possession of an illegal loaded weapon and tougher sentences for repeat gun offenders.
But the mayor faces critics who wonder whether the laws could unfairly lead to the arrest of those who legally own guns and give too much power to prosecutors.
“I know there are always going to be detractors, but I stay focused on what I know is the truth,” Rawlings-Blake said.
The mayor’s supporters say cases like the shooting of an officer late last year illustrate her point.
The man accused, Franklin Gross, had five prior gun arrests and served only two years of a 12-year armed robbery sentence–getting out just days before the shooting.
“We’re talking about individuals who have a history, a convicted history of guns and violence,” Rawlings-Blake said.
“Hopefully, our legislators will act in a manner that will try to combat this issue,” Harris said.
In her State of the City Address, the mayor said getting this legislation passed is one of her top priorities.