BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A controversial gun bill has passed in its second read in City Council.
Baltimore City Council is re-visiting a bill that could give a mandatory one-year sentence to anyone caught with an illegal gun. It passed on Monday night with an 8-7 vote.
It will now go to a third vote in September.
Ava-joye Burnett reports the bill has created a division even among the city council members.
Not only has this caused an ideological rift among council members, but the last time it came up in City Hall, a brawl broke out and two people were arrested.
The bill would give a mandatory one-year jail sentence to criminals caught with an illegal gun. It’s a measure both the mayor and commissioner support.
“What this is about is holding accountable the people who illegally carry guns and shoot and kill people in our city,” says Police Commissioner Kevin Davis.
So far this year, there has been at least 218 murders in the city, compared to 184 at the same time in 2016.
Councilman Eric Costello says if the bill passes, it would reduce violence in Baltimore.
He points to New York City as an example of where mandatory gun sentencing has worked.
“There is overwhelming support for this bill in my district, in both communities that are predominantly white as well as predominantly black. People are sick of the violence, the violence needs to stop,” he says.
But Councilman Zeke Cohen says the city needs to find a better way to track illegal guns.
“We need to focus on the violent repeat offenders, the folks that are causing havoc within our communities,” he says.
The last time there was a public hearing on this gun bill, chaos erupted inside City Hall.
At the end of that brawl about three weeks ago, a committee voted to send the bill to the full council.
There were changes to the bill, including adding that criminals could only get the mandatory minimum if they’ve been convicted of a gun violation in the past, or if the gun violation is committed with another crime.