It took a little over two hours from the time off-duty Baltimore police Sgt. Isaac Carrington was shot several times during a broad-daylight robbery outside his Northeast Baltimore home for Gov. Larry Hogan to politicize the situation. Right around the time the grievously wounded Mr. Carrington was undergoing his first surgery at Shock Trauma, Governor Hogan took to Twitter to throw shade on Baltimore’s leaders and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly. He didn’t say they were responsible for the shooting or overall Baltimore violence, per se, but he came pretty close: “We ask that you keep this officer in your prayers as he fights for his life. But thoughts and prayers alone are not enough. We have been pushing to get these violent shooters off the streets. Now is the time for city and legislative leaders to finally join us and support our efforts.”
Now is the time for city and legislative leaders to finally join us and support our efforts.
A couple of things here. First, the General Assembly did pass legislation in 2018 that expanded mandatory minimum penalties for felons caught with a firearm. Governor Hogan signed the bill, and plenty of Democrats who voted for it caught hell in that year’s primaries. Second, the legislation Mr. Hogan is complaining about now, the Repeat Firearms Offender Act of 2019, would have accomplished next to nothing.
It classifies the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony as a felony in itself, not just a misdemeanor. This doesn’t mean all that much since you have to be convicted of some other felony in the first place for the charge even to apply. It stipulates that for a first offense, the sentence must be served consecutively, not concurrently. That would have affected 178 people state-wide in fiscal 2018, according to the Department of Legislative Services, though any on-the-streets impact from that would be a long way off — it means five years would have been tacked onto the end of their sentences for other offenses, which tended to be lengthy anyway since they were mainly being jailed for armed robbery, first-degree assault, murder and attempted murder. The bill would also double the mandatory minimum for a second offense to 10 years. In fiscal 2018, that would have affected 13 people. In the entire state.
In fairness to Governor Hogan, this legislation was apparently much on his mind even before Sergeant Carrington’s shooting. He mentioned it in an interview with WJZ Thursday morning in a broader discussion of Baltimore crime, calling it “the next bill” Maryland needs to pass to address gun violence. And last week, after he called out Rep. Elijah Cummmings for not doing as much as he could to help Baltimore, we asked what more the congressman could have done. Mr. Hogan’s office included in its list a suggestion that he and other members of Maryland’s congressional delegation could come to Annapolis to testify in favor of it.
Mr. Hogan did not personally testify in favor of the bill, either, but he sent his top legislative aide, Chris Shank, and his senior adviser, the former Baltimore legislator and City Council member Keiffer Mitchell Jr. to the House Judiciary Committee to speak on its behalf. Mr. Shank opened his testimony by noting the “sweeping legislation targeting violent repeat offenders” the legislature had passed the year before, calling this bill a small piece of the initial proposal that didn’t make the final version. Underscoring that idea, Mr. Mitchell called it “only one component” of Governor Hogan’s efforts to reduce crime.
“It is not a panacea, and it will not solve the crisis that is happening in Baltimore City as it relates to its gun violence,” Mr. Mitchell said. “The governor does not believe that this is the only solution to reduce crime and address the violent crime crisis in Baltimore.”
But now, it’s apparently really important to Governor Hogan, so much so that he tweeted about it not only Thursday night but again Friday morning, “calling on city and legislative leaders to support our legislation to impose tougher mandatory sentences for those who repeatedly commit violent crimes with guns.” We’re certainly happy to have him focused and engaged in the fight against violent crime in Baltimore, and if he wants to use Sergeant Carrington as a rallying cry, by all means. We don’t even mind if he calls out Baltimore’s leaders in City Hall, the State House and Congress. But if he’s going to go there, we just wish he’d do it over something that would make a real difference.