Baltimore Grasps at a Gun Bill

Mark Kleiman, a Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Crime and Justice Initiative at New York University’s Marron Institute, weighed in on a contorversial new gun bill in Baltimore. 

Rachel M. Cohen, a journalist for, reports that the legislation, which seeks to implement a new mandatory minimum penalty for those caught carrying an illegal gun, is being lobbied by thecity’s police commissioner, Kevin Davis, and Mayor Catherine Pugh. This legislation is in reaction to the increased crime rates that plague Baltimore admist dropping crime rates in the rest of the country. Cohen relayed that "In 2015, Baltimore’s violent crime rate was more than four times the national average, and its murder rate was more than 11 times the national average. Right now, Baltimore’s murder toll exceeds that of New York City, which has about ten times the population."

Mark Kleiman, an NYU public policy professor and an expert on drug and criminal justice issues, calls the $1,000 fine “gibberish.” Quoting the infamous politician syllogism, he says, “We must do something, this is something, therefore we must do it.”

Cohen quotes Daniel Webster, of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research: "The city does need to have better consequences for illegal gun possession, but that the consequences should be driven by better arrest and prosecution, rather than at the tail end of the sentencing process." Offering alternative ways to lower the murder rates, Webster cites the importance of "new training protocols that will help strengthen the prosecution of illegal firearms" as well as other sources citing "investments in community-based solutions" and a better investment of putting “more squad cars on street corners" rather than jacking up sentences.  

Kleiman of NYU thinks policymakers should be considering things like 9 p.m. curfews. “It’s the perfect sanction in the sense that it’s salient, it’s aversive, and it doesn’t interfere with family duties and employment,” he says.

Cohen concludes with optimism, referencing a new Maryland law that will take a step away from the "War on Drugs" mentality by "significantly reducing mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent offenders throughout Maryland". Yet, the fear is that most political leaders still "harbor the old-school mentality".

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