With a Baltimore police officer hospitalized after being shot multiple times, Gov. Larry Hogan renewed his call Friday for longer mandatory minimum sentences against gun offenders.
Posting videos on social media sites, Hogan, a Republican, asked the public to call on Democrats in the General Assembly to pass his legislation. It would impose stiffer penalties on a small number of offenders convicted of using a firearm during a crime of violence.
“The senseless violence must stop,” Hogan wrote on Facebook. “For the last two years, our administration proposed legislation that will increase mandatory sentences for repeat violent offenders and double the minimum sentence for those who use a gun to commit a violent crime."
Responding to the governor Friday, Democrats argued he was trying to mislead the public about what actually happened in the legislature. The General Assembly already passed similar legislation in 2018, and Hogan’s version would impact only a handful of offenders, according to a state analysis.
Hogan initially called for action Thursday, just hours after the officer was wounded, tweeting, “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.”
Sgt. Isaac Carrington, 43 and a 22-year veteran of the city police department, remained hospitalized in critical condition Friday after he was shot multiple times during an apparent robbery outside his home in the Frankford neighborhood.
Police say Carrington was speaking Thursday with a neighbor when a car pulled onto the street and at least one masked man pulled out a gun and attempted to rob them. The neighbor threw what he had to the ground and took off running, while Carrington ran in the opposite direction. The gunman followed Carrington and shot him multiple times, according to police.
More than 600 people have been shot this year in Baltimore, a 28 percent increase from the same time last year.
Hogan has repeatedly introduced The Repeat Firearms Offender Act, which would make the use of a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence a felony, instead of a misdemeanor; and would increase the mandatory minimum sentence for second offense from five years to 10.
“This would get the gangs and criminals off our streets and behind bars where they belong,” the governor wrote on Facebook. “It is time for the city and legislative leaders to finally join us and support our efforts. This isn’t about politics; this is about saving lives and taking our communities back.”
He also touted his proposal last week as an issue that Democratic U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore should support to help the city, suggesting that Cummings and other Maryland members of Congress should testify in Annapolis in its favor.
In 2018, the Democratic-controlled Maryland General Assembly passed legislation that contained provisions that are similar to what Hogan is proposing.
With a 46-0 vote in the Senate and a 107-31 vote in the House of Delegates, the legislature imposed a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for a second offense of a crime of violence, including use of a firearm in commission of a felony or violent crime. Under the bill, which is now state law, a judge can’t suspend a sentence after a second conviction and a repeat violent offender isn’t eligible for parole.
Hogan’s legislation would be tougher on first-time gun offenders. It would require any sentence for use of a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence or felony to be served in addition to the sentence imposed on the underlying violent crime.
A Department of Legislative Services analysis of the governor’s bill concluded that if the law had been in effect in 2018, it would have meant longer sentences for 13 gun offenders.
Del. Luke Clippinger, a Baltimore Democrat who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, noted that Hogan has withheld $245 million in funding approved by the legislature, including $7 million for technology upgrades in the Baltimore Police Department. Hogan has said he will look for other ways to fund the technology.
“What I’d like to see the governor do is release the money for the police department,” Clippinger said. “That is going to have a practical impact on crime right away. I’d like to see the governor assign a person to coordinate the state’s response to violent crime in Baltimore. We’re looking for practical solutions right now, not waiting another five months for a bill that simply restates existing state law."
Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, a Howard County Democrat who is vice chairwoman of the committee, noted that Hogan’s legislation is very similar to the bill passed by the legislature.
"I'm not quite sure why the governor wants to pin the blame on us," Atterbeary said. "It sounds like he's just trying to get a good sound bite in the media."
Atterbeary said her committee is looking forward to hearing from Baltimore’s police commissioner about what he thinks needs to be done legislatively to address crime.
“Every year, we do things to try to help reduce the violence,” she said.
Del. Nick J. Mosby, a Baltimore Democrat, said Hogan has not addressed the root causes of crime, such as poverty and lack of opportunity.
“Removing judiciary discretion with the use of mandatory minimum laws has never been an effective way of reducing violence,” Mosby said. “As one of the richest states in the nation, violence will persist until we develop sustainable solutions of improving our schools, augmenting our workforce, eradicating concentrated pockets of poverty, and developing a 21st century police department with community input and trust.”
A spokesman for Hogan did not respond immediately to the Democrats’ criticisms.