Baltimore City Council members explain why they are voting for or against a one-year mandatory sentence for possession and use of an illegal handgun during a crime. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun video)
Without discussion, the Baltimore City Council on Monday narrowly passed weakened legislation originally designed to impose a mandatory one-year jail sentence on people who illegally carry guns.
The legislation passed by an 8-7 vote, when Councilman John Bullock cast what was seen as the deciding vote in favor of the bill.
The legislation had become the subject of heated debate in a year when Baltimore faces a surging homicide rate. Supporters argued it would be a useful tool to curb the violence, while opponents countered that the city risked returning to harsh policies of yesteryear.
But the council voted to gut the bill — making the legislation little different from existing state law except for adding a $1,000 fine.
The council unanimously adopted a pair of amendments that would make the mandatory sentence apply only on a second offense or if someone was carrying a gun "in connection with" a crime against a person or property.
Existing state laws provide a mandatory minimum one-year term on a second handgun-possession offense. They also require a five-year mandatory sentence for using guns in connection with violent crimes or drug dealing or possessing them as a felon.
City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young voted in favor of the bill along with Bullock, Isaac "Yitzy" Schleifer, Sharon Middleton, Leon Pinkett, Ed Reisinger, Eric Costello and Robert Stokes.
Opposed were Zeke Cohen, Brandon Scott, Ryan Dorsey, Bill Henry, Kris Burnett, Shannon Sneed and Mary Pat Clarke.