OP-ED: Mandatory minimums for illegal handguns will NOT stop murders in Baltimore

By Adam Jackson | Op-Ed

Jul 14

UPDATE – 7/17/2017

The hearing of the bill will be on July 25, 2017 at 10am @ City Hall – 100 Holliday St., Baltimore, MD 21202. 

Currently there is legislation under consideration in the Baltimore City Council that would create mandatory penalties for illegal handgun charges within city limits. Under the proposed law, if a person is convicted of an illegal handgun charge, judges are required to impose a one-year sentence of imprisonment and fine of $1,000.

Click here to read the draft of the proposed bill for mandatory minimum charges illegal handguns.

We have a decade of analysis which says this policy won’t work and may in fact make the problem worse. Scholars from the University of Michigan did a definitive study which showed that incarceration did not deter crime, but in fact made crime worse by locking up minor offenders who become career criminals in jail. For the past decade, Baltimore has created an environment for youth which centered on incarceration and neglected their needs. What we are seeing in Baltimore today is the ramifications of these policies, youth handed in jail without alternatives, and the City Council wants to double down on the same policies which caused this crisis.

We think this bill is a tremendously short-sighted approach to stemming violence in Baltimore. This “one-size-fits-all” approach  leads to severe unintended consequences (e.g. targeting those trying to protect themselves as opposed to violent criminals, constructive possession traps innocent people who had nothing to do with the weapon, etc).

Cases will be pled out to lower sentences not because of weak prosecutors/judges but because of bad policing. This is also contradictory to the recent commitments that the City of Baltimore has made to implementing the consent decree with the Baltimore Police Department. If we are seriously interested in escaping the pitfalls of previous administrations (e.g. the patterns and practices outlined in the 2016 US Department of Justice report) then we must embrace a new strategy of investment instead of incarceration.

Mandatory minimums are a vestige of the failed war on drugs and perpetuate failed, feel-good “law and order” policies instead of focusing political capital on proven crime prevention strategies such as investment in anti-violence programs, drug treatment, reentry and workforce development initiatives. Correctional policies over time produced the moment that we’re in. We are literally reproducing another population of hardened formerly incarcerated individuals that are coming back to our communities.

Furthermore, in a majority Black city, Baltimore has never invested in Black people are in close proximity to violence and making them the leaders of the anti-violence strategy for Baltimore.

Why aren’t we investing in people like Ericka Bridgeford’s grassroots #BaltimoreCeaseFire movement to stop the culture of violence in the city?

Why is Safe Streets Baltimore consistently given crumbs from the city budget when they are experts in the area of anti-violence?

Why has the the Kujichagulia Center been shut down due to inadequate funding when they’ve redirected dozens of shooting victims to direct services?

The are so many Black leaders and organizations who are directly dealing with the issue of violence. The solution to violence in Baltimore is investment, not incarceration. This bill is merely a knee-jerk response from anxious politicians on the eve a gubernatorial election year. This is BAD POLICY for Baltimore and will only further entrench the racist policing practices that the city says it is trying to end.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

The hearing for this bill will be happening on July 25 @ 10am in City Hall. The bill will be heard in front of the Judiciary & Legislative investigations committee.

From all public dialogue around this bill, the council will likely be moving quickly to get this bill signed into law, so it is likely the only public hearing that will be had for this bill where residents can voice their opposition.

We encourage all concerned Baltimore residents to show up to this hearing and voice their OPPOSITION to this bill.

We’ll be updating this post on when the bill is going to be heard in front of the full City Council.

You should also email/call YOUR councilman TODAY and tell them vote NO on this bill.

Click here to find out who is your Baltimore City Councilman.

 

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About the Author

Adam J. Jackson is the CEO of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle (LBS). Adam is a West Baltimore native, and Towson University graduate.