Baltimore City Council deeply divided over mandatory sentence for gun possession – Baltimore Sun

The City Council is deeply divided over a proposal to impose a mandatory one-year sentence for carrying a handgun in much of Baltimore.

The council held an impromptu, 45-minute debate on the idea Monday afternoon before the legislation was even introduced Monday night. Seven members of the 15-member body say they’ll support the measure, while four oppose it. The remaining four say they’re maybes.

Council leaders say the ordinance is a necessary step toward getting rising levels of violence under control in Baltimore by ensuring that people caught with a gun get time behind bars. Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young urged his colleagues to support the measure during a working lunch that turned into a lengthy back and forth on the bill.

“The criminals are running this city,” Young said. “We’re not running it, they are. And if we want to do a first step, it is this bill right here.”

But opponents of the idea said there’s no evidence to show that mandatory minimum sentences drive down crime and that tying judges’ hands could lead to unfair outcomes.

“This is not something that’s innovative,” said Councilman Kristerfer Burnett, who quickly came out in opposition to the bill after city leaders announced it last week.

Baltimore leaders propose mandatory sentence for illegal gun possession

The bill would create the one-year penalty in cases where a person was convicted of carrying a handgun within 100 yards of a school, church or other place of public assembly — a definition city officials say would cover most of Baltimore. Supporters had to tie the measure to certain locations for the proposed city ordinance to be allowed under Maryland law.

Carrying a handgun on city streets without

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