Baltimore Lawmakers Work To Strengthen Gun Legislation

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore lawmakers take the lead on “get tough” gun legislation.  The General Assembly is considering a bill to expand penalties for repeat offenders.

Political reporter Pat Warren explains what that could have meant for one Baltimore police officer.

It’s up to the cops to catch them, the prosecutors to convict them and the courts to keep them.

“I’m here to explain why tougher legislation for gun offenders would have had a direct effect on my life,” said Officer Todd Strohman.

Last November, Strohman was on patrol when he stopped a man he suspected of carrying a gun.

“I told him to take his hands out of his pockets and he smiled at me and whipped out his gun and shot me in the neck,” he said.  “The fear of God was in my wife’s eyes, my father cried in front of me for the first time, my mother and sister could barely look at me in my condition.”

The shooter had been arrested 10 times; five of them were gun charges. 

Baltimore Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake are asking lawmakers to increase the mandatory minimum for gun offenses from a flat five years to five to 15.

“Maryland’s most violent offenders keep offending over and over and over again,” Bealefeld said.

Some members of the House Judiciary Committee suggest making better use of existing laws before adding new tools to the box.  Mayor Rawlings-Blake offered assurances that is being done with better cooperation between the police, the prosecutors and the judges.

“It’s a three-legged stool.  You need all three legs to be in balance; otherwise, the criminals win,” Rawlings-Blake said.

Strohman has every intention of continuing his job in a few weeks with a bullet still lodged near his heart.

State’s attorneys in Baltimore, Baltimore County and Prince George’s County say expanding the gun sentences to five to 15 years adds torque to the arm-twisting that gets the guilty to plead and keeps them locked up longer.

The city and counties also support bills to include crimes committed with long guns like shotguns and rifles in mandatory sentencing.

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