The mayor's gun bill introduced to city council Monday night would make possession of a gun a mandatory one-year jail sentence. Currently, six city councilmen sit on the fence of the controversial legislation. Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke is one of those on the fence. Even though the guns are illegal, Baltimore is a tough city and her constituents tell her they’re scared.
“I believe they’re carrying unregistered guns to protect themselves," says Clark, but says, police officers are supposed to be protecting the streets.“They shouldn’t be carrying guns to protect themselves in Baltimore city we should be doing the protection.”
Laura Dugan, a professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland, points out that if you want a gun in your home, you need a permit. And even then – having it at home for protection is one thing, but carrying it around the city – even if it’s concealed - is already illegal.
She says one reason why someone wouldn’t have a permit for their gun is "because they know they wouldn’t pass the background check."
Under current law, carrying an illegal gun in Baltimore is a misdemeanor – it’s a slap on the wrist.
So, how do these illegal guns get into Baltimore?
Chad Fox is the owner of Fox’s Firearms in Columbia. He says buying a gun legally and registering it can be difficult for someone who has a criminal record, but the means of obtaining an illegal gun are fairly easy.
One way of obtaining an illegal gun is "to go across state lines, buy a firearm, and bring it back.”
Others have illegal guns shipped to them in the mail. And the third option is to buy illegal guns online.
“So I can go onto a place called Armslist.com," says Fox. "List a shotgun for sale under Maryland. Somebody emails me we meet in a Walmart parking lot, they give me the money, I can them the gun and away we go.”
While Fox says the vast majority of gun sales on Armslist.com are legitimate some sales have no record, no registration, and no permits. Fox says he would like to see a solution to these options for obtaining illegal guns.
"We need to figure out something as a group," says Fox. "We need to come together and meet in the middle to figure out a way to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.”
The internet and gun show loop holes allow illegal and legal guns to be brought into Baltimore via the I-95 corridor from southern gun liberal states like Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina to northern gun conservative states like New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
Just last year Baltimore Police broke up a Tennessee gun cartel that was trafficking 30 illegal guns a week into Baltimore city. Guns that were likely used to put Baltimore homicide rate back to where it was in the 1980s at the height of the drug war.