Downtown Baltimore is risky, ‘dangerous,’ Rep. Andy Harris says in town hall meeting

Responding to a question about gun control at a town hall meeting Wednesday in Carroll County, Rep. Andy Harris had some tough words for Baltimore, saying it was risky and “dangerous” to walk in the city’s downtown.

“We have to put risks in proportion,” the Baltimore County Republican said in response to a question about school shootings. “If we want to do something dangerous today it’s not going to your elementary school, it’s going to downtown Baltimore. That’s what risk is. Over 300 murders a year with a handgun.”

There were 342 homicides in Baltimore last year — the worst in the city’s history on a per capita basis — three of which occurred downtown. An aide clarified that Harris was speaking about all of Baltimore, not just downtown.

Harris returned to the theme minutes later, arguing that city prosecutors in Baltimore have not enforced handgun crimes as aggressively as they could, and that that partly explained the city’s struggle with crime.

“The most dangerous thing you can do tonight is not to go to the elementary school here, it’s to go to downtown Baltimore tonight,” Harris said.

“Any of you want to go for a walk in West Baltimore tonight?” asked Harris , motioning for a show of hands. “Way more children are killed in Baltimore City every year than in any Maryland school — way more children. Where’s the outrage for that?”

Video taken by an audience member at the town hall in Hampstead shows Harris facing a skeptical crowd on gun control as he offered an argument against banning assault weapons and raising the age for purchasing weapons.

Harris and other conservatives often point to the city’s violence as an indication that Maryland’s tough gun control laws have not worked, and therefore would not work at the national level. Gun trace data from 2014 show that about 43 percent of guns used in crimes in Maryland were purchased in other states, and that the rest are purchased locally.

“I believe you should not restrict a law abiding citizen and you should very strongly punish someone who is not law abiding and uses a weapon,” Harris said. “It is a difficult issue because all of us want to stop the type of thing that happened in Florida. The question is will a ban on any type, any category of weapon like an assault weapon will it stop that. And it’s pretty clear that it won’t.”

john.fritze@baltsun.com

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