BALTIMORE, MD – Good afternoon Chairman Frosh, Vice-Chairwoman Gladden and Members of the Committee. I bring both greetings from the Baltimore City Council and a sincere appreciation for ensuring a swift hearing on the bills before you today.
Senator Jones-Rodwell, your commitment to the safety of not only your constituents but to all Marylanders is demonstrated by your introduction of Senate Bills 239 and 240. Thank you.
Mayor Rawlings-Blake, I applaud your leadership and tireless advocacy on behalf of Baltimore City. I am proud to stand with you today in support of Senate Bills 239 and 240.
In Baltimore City, we have been doing our part to try to reduce crime. While addressing very serious budget constraints, the Baltimore City Council has worked with the Mayor to ensure that the Baltimore Police Department has the resources it needs to function effectively. We have passed a number of pieces of legislation designed to support the efforts of the BPD to crack down on all sorts of crime including the establishment of the Gun Offender Registry which allows the BPD to closely monitor convicted gun offenders.
We have encouraged our residents, our business leaders, and our civic leaders to participate in community policing of their neighborhoods through participating in Citizens on Patrol efforts.
We have sought and received funding through a grant from the Governor’s Office on Crime Control and Prevention to provide crime prevention intervention to our youth. This and so much more is being done and our efforts are paying off.
In fact, in June 2010, Baltimore City recorded the lowest number of shootings on record ever for the month of June. Overall gun crime, including homicides, shootings, armed-robberies, and carjackings, was also down 16% compared to the previous year.
But, it only takes one. One bullet shot on our streets is too many. One tear shed because the loss of a life is too many.
At Thanksgiving, when most of the country was spending time with loved ones, I shared a meal with several members of an organization called Survivor’s Against Violence Everywhere.
These good people have suffered tremendous losses. Many of their loved ones died as a result of gun violence. Their sons, their daughters, their mothers and fathers who were once filled with hope, were shot down in the prime of their lives. These families will never be the same; they will never again be whole. So I felt I had to do something.
In December 2010, I introduced City Council Resolution 10-0237R supporting Mayor Rawlings Blake’s efforts to seek tougher penalties for those individuals arrested in the possession of an illegal firearm. The resolution was cosponsored by 11 of my colleagues and I anticipate that it will be adopted by the full City Council on February 28th.
You know, when discussing legislation having to do with the regulation of firearms, there always a few people who argue that the government should not regulate the possession or the use of any firearms because, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”
I agree. I have never known a gun to spontaneously pick a victim, aim, and shoot all on its own. Someone is always holding the gun: picking the victim, aiming and shooting. That person must be held accountable! Our constituents, your constituents deserve that.
Senate Bill 239 says that the person convicted of possessing a loaded handgun, WILL serve at least 18 months. It also makes it a felony to possess a loaded handgun in Maryland and prevents a court from ordering probation before judgment.
Senate Bill 240 says those persons who have already been convicted of a crime of violence and CDS (controlled dangerous substance) felony crimes may not possess regulated firearms including long guns and shotguns.
The message these bills sends is clear: if you are a bad guy, you will be held accountable. That is an important message for both the offenders and the victims to hear.
Those who are grieving, those whose bodies are struggling to heal from gunshot wounds need to know that we care about them. They need to know that we are doing the job that they elected us to do.
Again, Chairman Frosh, Vice-Chairwoman Gladden and Members of the Committee, I thank you for your timely consideration of this important matter and urge you to report favorably on Senate Bills 239 and 240 because these bills can save lives and give hope back to our constituents.