Mayor Catherine Pugh’s watered down bill aimed at imposing a mandatory minimum one-year sentence for possession of an illegal gun survived a preliminary vote in the city council Monday night.
The 8-7 vote came after opponents gathered outside City Hall demonstrate against the bill.
A crowd of about 50 that included faith leaders, activist groups such as Maryland Working Families and members of Local 1199 Service Employees International Union showed up wearing red to demonstrate solidarity.
Pugh has touted the bill as a tool to slow Baltimore’s soaring murder rate. But opponents said it would merely return the city to the days of zero tolerance policing and lead to mass incarceration.
“It’s a form of zero tolerance because you’re not leaving any discretion to the judges whose job it is to do sentencing,” argued Ricarra Jones of 1199 SEIU.
He said city leaders aren’t looking at the root issues in Baltimore’s poorest neighborhoods, where crime is rampant and people are afraid.
Pugh’s original bill called for the mandatory sentence on a first offense. But a city council committee amended the bill to make the sentence apply on a second offense or if someone is carrying a gun in connection with a crime against a person or property. It added a $1,000 fine.
That makes it track closely with state law, which carries a one-year mandatory minimum for a second fire arms offense and a mandatory 5-year sentence if the gun is used in connection with a violent crime, drug dealing or in the possession of a felon.
City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, along with council members John Bullock, Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer, Sharon Middleton, Leon Pinkett, Ed Reisinger, Eric Costello and Robert Stokes voted in favor of the bill.
Council members Zeke Cohen, Brandon Scott, Ryan Dorsey, Bill Henry, Kris Burnett, Shannon Sneed and Mary Pat Clarke were opposed.