Baltimore's Murders And The False Promise Of Gun Control

It’s been seven years since then-Governor Martin O’Malley signed a sweeping package of gun control bills known as the Firearms Safety Act into law, promising that the anti-gun measures would make the state a safer place. In fact, O’Malley didn’t wait to put pen to paper before extolling the virtues of the gun control measures. After the bills passed out of the legislature, the Democrat released a glowing statement of support for the “comprehensive and common sense” legislation.

“With today’s vote, Maryland has chosen to enact a comprehensive, common sense approach to licensing and gun safety, a ban on the sale of military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and meaningful improvements to mental health treatment and data-sharing – striking a balance between protecting the safety of law enforcement and our children, and respecting the traditions of hunters and law-abiding citizens to purchase handguns for self-protection,” said O’Malley. “We appreciate the hard work of Senate President Miller, Speaker Busch, floor leaders Senator Brian Frosh and Delegate Kathleen Dumais, and members of the General Assembly. Together, with a strong coalition of advocates, and the people of Maryland who overwhelmingly support policies to reduce gun violence, we’ve chosen to take action by advancing the strategies that work to save lives.”

Unfortunately, those saccharine-sweet words of praise for the gun control bills have left a sour taste in the mouths of many residents of Baltimore, Maryland. You see, instead of lives being saved, more lives have been lost. There were 211 homicides in Baltimore in 2014, which was the lowest murder rate the city had seen since the 1970s, but since then the city has gone in the wrong direction. More than 300 homicides were recorded in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019, and the city’s once again on pace to break the 300 murder mark in 2020 as well.

While media outlets like the Baltimore Sun are still covering the plague of violent crime in the city, no one’s really talking about the failure of the Maryland Firearms Safety Act to actually keep the public safe. Instead, politicians and the media alike are largely pretending that the sweeping gun control measures were never put in place while complaining about a lack of focus on preventing “gun violence”.

We have been told there are bright spots. Baltimore has been focused on police reforms with federal court oversight. One of the reasons the death of George Floyd and similar recent examples of police brutality and racial bias spawned protests but not violence in Baltimore is the sense for many who live here that, overall, the city is moving in the right direction since the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, that some measure of trust in the police is gradually being restored. And just two months ago, Commissioner Harrison was trumpeting modest improvements and “positive momentum,” crediting his five-year anti-crime plan with micro-zone targeted enforcement, improved technology, accountability. But the homicide numbers tell a different story. Overall, the city remains on pace for maybe one or two dozen fewer homicides this year compared to last, when there were 348, but not if we continue to lose a 12 people a week — the equivalent of more than 600 a year.

Instead of pointing out the abject failure of O’Malley’s gun control laws, the Baltimore Sun‘s editorial board chose to go after Republicans Donald Trump and Gov. Larry Hogan instead.

Making this complex public health disaster all the more galling is that it’s been reduced to a political tagline, a counterpunch for President Donald Trump who wants voters to see gun violence as a product of Democratic mismanagement as if major cities were something separate and apart from the United States and therefore not his responsibility. This is no accident. In the Bob Woodward book, “Rage,” Jared Kushner makes clear that Mr. Trump’s attacks on Baltimore are purely political exercises to force Democrats to defend it. Republicans long ago deserted this city, whether it was the flight to the suburbs that started decades ago or the more recent cancellation of the Red Line by Gov. Larry Hogan five years ago, which cost thousands of jobs and missed economic opportunities.

Remarkably, Trump and Hogan are the only politicians called out by name by the Sun‘s editors. They make no mention of Martin O’Malley, who presided over rising violent crime rates when he was Baltimore’s mayor in addition to his ineffective gun control laws as governor. They don’t say a word about the Democrats who’ve dominated Baltimore politics for the past 50 years. Instead, they say that Trump just wants voters to blame “gun violence” on the Democrats, while they themselves seemingly absolve Democrats of any responsibility for their city.

Major cities are indeed a part of the United States, but addressing violent crime is primarily a local consideration. If Donald Trump and Larry Hogan are to blame for Baltimore City’s abysmal homicide rate, then shouldn’t Donald Trump and Hogan also be given the lion’s share of credit for the drop in homicides in Baltimore County?

Baltimore’s violent crime problem certainly can’t be blamed on Donald Trump, especially given the fact that homicides started surging two years before he took office. If the Baltimore Sun wants its readers to take their editorials seriously, then the editors themselves have to acknowledge that the problems began long before Trump and Hogan took office. They could start by admitting that the Democrats’ anti-gun agenda in Maryland has been an abject failure, that the good people in Baltimore’s bad neighborhoods deserve the ability to own and carry a firearm for self-defense, and that you can’t expect that violent crime is going to drop when you keep passing laws designed to restrict the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.