Baltimore, Maryland has set a grim record in 2019- the highest per capita homicide rate in the city’s history. With 342 homicides this year, the city is less than a dozen murders behind the all time high the city reached in 1993, but because the city’s population has plummeted by tens of thousands of residents since then, the murder rate is even higher than it was in the bad old days. From WTOP radio in Washington, D.C.:
With just over 600,000 residents, the city hit a historically high homicide rate of about 57 per 100,000 people after recent relentless gunfire saw eight people shot — three fatally — in one day and nine others — one fatally — another day…
This is the fifth year in a row that Baltimore has reported more than 300 killings. Before 2015, that number had generally been on the decline, but it reversed after civil unrest followed the death in police custody of a young black man, Freddie Gray.
Reasons for the change vary and are subject to interpretation.
Many have accused police of taking a hands-off approach to crime-fighting since six of their own were charged in connection with Gray’s death. None of the officers was ultimately convicted.
Others have attributed it to the apparent free flow of illegal guns, the effects of a punishing opioid epidemic, social inequalities and a lack of decent jobs for many in disenfranchised neighborhoods. Some say political incompetence at City Hall also has contributed.
What WTOP ignores (along with virtually every other media outlet in the Baltimore/D.C. area) is that six years ago the state of Maryland adopted sweeping gun control legislation known as the Firearms Safety Act. Back in 2013, then-Governor Martin O’Malley and then-Lt. Governor Anthony Brown (now a member of Congress) heralded the new gun control laws as tools that would make the state a safer place.
“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.”
Lt. Governor Brown led the O’Malley’s administration’s community outreach efforts on the Firearm Safety Act. In addition to testifying in support of the proposal alongside the Governor, he held several public town halls around the state where he engaged hundreds of Maryland residents on the need to improve the safety of our communities, strengthen mental health and protect our schools.
“As leaders, we have a responsibility to keep Maryland safe; to prevent senseless violence from threatening our collective potential – violence that takes our children from us too soon and destroys our neighborhoods,” said Brown. “The Firearm Safety Act of 2013 is an essential tool in that effort, and makes Maryland a safer place to live, work, and raise a family. Today, with the General Assembly, we took an important step towards making our schools safer and reducing gun violence throughout our state. I want to thank the General Assembly for taking action on this critical legislation, as well as the advocates and community members whose hard work made the passage of this bill possible.”
In 2013, Baltimore’s per capita homicide rate was 38 per 100,000. Since then it’s soared to a record high of 57 per 100,000. Does that sound like the Maryland Firearms Safety Act was a success? Did it really put in place “strategies that work to save lives” as O’Malley proclaimed? Or did it simply target legal gun owners with new restrictions on their right to keep and bear arms, while ignoring the violent criminals driving the violence on Baltimore’s streets and in the city’s worst neighborhoods?
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that Baltimore’s spike in shootings and murders is entirely because of the gun control laws that were put on the books in 2013. What I am stating is that none of those new gun control laws actually worked to reduce crime. Yet, outside of a few letters to the editor that made it to the pages of the Baltimore Sun, no media outlet has bothered to report on the failures of the gun control package, and politicians in Maryland continue to double down on the idea that even more gun control will turn things around.
Continuing down this road is a dead end for the good people in bad neighborhoods plagued by violent crime, gangs, and drugs. Unfortunately for them, far too many elected officials in Baltimore and the state of Maryland still believe that they can ban their way to safety, even as crime continues to spiral out of control.