It takes an Olympian-level of mental gymnastics to get yourself into the convoluted position where some members of the Baltimore City Council find themselves today. The leftward-edge of the Council, many of whom came into office last Fall, are set to oppose the Mayor and Police Commissioner’s recommendation that Baltimore City move forward with a law that would impose a mandatory one-year minimum sentence for carrying an illegal gun in Baltimore.
At the outset, let’s remember that we’re talking about a one-year sentence, not life in prison or being thrown in the harbor.
The law’s a no-brainer when you’re going through a situation like Baltimore is. The City is on track to have around 350 murders this year. It remains a major problem when we’re counting bodies in terms of numbers rather than names, but that’s where we are as a community. Incapacitation of criminals is a valid goal of legislation and judicial action. Sure, in a perfect world, we should strive to be rehabilitationists, but, we live in the real world, not a progressive fantasy.
There’s a bit to unpack here, so, let’s jump right in.
Carrying Guns Makes Sense, Unless You’re a Legal Gun Owner
One of the first criticisms from the left, which is, suffice it to say, astounding, is that the bill would unfairly target people who are, get this, illegally carrying a gun for their own protection. No, we’re not making this up. Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, whose famous crusade for a $15 minimum wage nearly drove small businesses out of the City, now is quoted by WBAL as saying “I’m concerned about people, for example, who are carrying illegal guns to protect themselves because they’re so scared and that’s the first thing I’m thinking of.”
Let that sink in for a second. The Democrats, who have made Maryland one of the most difficult states to legally own a gun, have gone so far in trying to protect criminals that they’re defending illegal gun ownership. It’s almost impossible to imagine a scenario where the likes of a Councilwoman Clarke would support legal concealed carry, but, she can empathize with the illegal gun owners’ plight.
Mary Pat Clarke, who was against people owning BB-Guns, is now empathizing with people carrying illegal guns.
The Scourge of “Should-ing”
As baffling as Councilwoman Clarke’s mental pretzel of logic seems, it’s nothing compared to the so-far-in-left-field-they’re-not-in-the-same-zip-code rationale put forward by newly-elected Councilwoman Shannon Sneed who reasoned: “We know the best ways to fight crime: a quality education for our children, accessible afterschool and summer programs, job training and college readiness programs for children and returning citizens, addiction counseling for those who need it….”
There’s actually a macabre humor in the well-meaning naivete here. A farce presented in 350 acts. People are being gunned down across the City of Baltimore, police are under-manned and over-deployed in a top-heavy bureaucratic nightmare without political support, but, if we only had more afterschool programs.
The cavalcade of anti-minimum sentence gymnasts comes to the open wound in Baltimore: race relations. The criticism from Councilman Kristerfer Burnett is that mandatory minimum sentences in Baltimore City would disproportionately effect minorities, but especially African Americans.
This is certainly a concerning possibility at the outset and needs to be avoided. However, the insinuation is that the Mayor is proposing a racially-targeted law and that the police in Baltimore would enforce it that way. That’s a harsh condemnation of a diverse group of people. This is a situation where Occam’s Razor doesn’t fit with the progressive mantra. The simple truth is that there are hundreds of people being killed by people with illegal guns. People in prison can’t kill other people with illegal guns.
Devoid of any short-term solutions that don’t offend “progressive” sensibilities, it only makes sense to address these issues in vague generalities, a devious political trait that we call “should-ing.” Rather than offer solutions that could be branded as offensive, politicians will all-too-often resort to the realm of the hypothetical, or “perfect world” and tell us what “should” be happening rather than present actual solutions.
We’re confident that the Mayor would not be the first person we’d invite to a “Baltimore Conservatives Bash.” However, as we’ve written several times here, she’s governing as a pragmatist. It started with her decision to hand a letter detailing Baltimore’s needs to then-President-elect Trump (while the City Council threw an anti-Trump temper tantrum). She may not agree with Trump on anything, but her willingness to put her constituents’ well-being before her political ego took a lot of courage. Other issues, like the mandatory minimum law she is proposing now, have shown that she’s willing to try concrete solutions rather than vague promises. She should be commended.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a good Baltimore-in-Chaos story if Councilman Ryan Dorsey wasn’t on the wrong side of the issue. Ryan, who (in)famously drew a sharp rebuke from the Police Commissioner over the Councilman’s insinuation that police officers are abusing and killing people in Baltimore has, unsurprisingly, decided not to work to put criminals behind bars. Here’s the exchange between Commissioner Davis and the Councilman:
— Kevin Davis (@CommishKDavis) July 12, 2017
Real Solutions? Let’s Hope So
Several Councilmen have weighed-in that they will support the Mayor and the police Commissioner. There is also talk that the General Assembly will take up a more comprehensive mandatory minimums bill next year. While simply locking people up isn’t the answer to long-term violent crime, it certainly is one of the necessary tools in the arsenal of lawmakers and law enforcement to get a handle on a situation that is, as of the time of writing, still out of control.
If this bill passes, we still have a problem of a City Council that has proven that it is far-too-often prepared to stand on progressive principles against the needs of the City and their constituents. At least they will be comfortable in their reminding people what we “should” do while they remain dilatory.