Technically, the mayoral election in Baltimore will take place on the first Tuesday in November, but since there’s virtually no chance of a Republic winning the office, the Democrat primary on June 2nd will serve as the de-facto general election. There’s a crowded field of candidates hoping to replace Mayor Jack Young, whose polling has been tanking, and at the moment it looks like there are four candidates who have a shot at winning the nomination in a couple of weeks.
According to a recent poll, the overwhelming priority for voters in the city is reducing the soaring homicide rate, but unfortunately for them, almost all of the leading candidates are offering no more than another helping of the same gun control agenda that has failed to bring down the number of shootings in the city. In fact, since lawmakers in Maryland passed the Firearms Safety Act package of gun control bills in 2014, homicides in Baltimore have soared to record highs. You’d think that the Democrats running for mayor would be calling for all kinds of new gun control laws, but surprisingly, none of the leading candidates have made new gun laws a focus of their campaigns.
Former mayor Sheila Dixon, who was forced to resign after accusations of embezzling money meant for at-risk families, is running for her old seat, and according to recent polls she’s actually one of the favorites to win the nomination, perhaps because she’s the last mayor that can boast about crime in the city going down under her watch. While Dixon’s campaign website does tout failed policies like the city’s “gun offender registry,” Dixon’s focus, at least according to her campaign, is on the city’s most violent offenders, and the former mayor says she wants to work with federal prosecutors to target career criminals.
By working with the federal prosecutors and the State’s Attorney, we must pursue the toughest sentences against our most violent offenders, seeking harsher penalties and longer sentences. All of this can be done consistently and persistently so that we can stop responding only to the latest fatality and begin to proactively refine our system.
Mary Miller, a former Obama administration official, also doesn’t mention any new gun control laws in her platform. Instead, she wants to focus on fixing the Baltimore Police Department, which has been plagued by scandals involving corruption and false charges. And like Dixon, Miller says she wants the Baltimore police to adopt a policy of focused deterrence that targets the city’s most prolific criminals.
One third of the city’s gun violence over the last five years took place in just five percent of Baltimore’s geographic area. Focused deterrence targets high-risk, violent offenders and offers them comprehensive support from law enforcement, social services, and community organizations. This strategy has been effective across the country, most notably in Boston, where it contributed to a 79 percent reduction in violent crime during the 1990s. A version of focused deterrence used to exist in Baltimore and led to a substantial decrease in violent crime—but this strategy requires committed funding and buy-in from city leadership to be effective.
City Council President Brandon Scott says he wants a “holistic approach” to fighting crime in the city, and that includes targeting gun traffickers.
As Chair of the City Council Public Safety Committee, I led the way for Baltimore to use the “Crime Gun Intelligence Center” model, which provides BPD an opportunity to track illegal guns and ammunition. While this model already exists, it is not being used to its fullest extent. As Mayor, I will increase our commitment to tracking guns and ammunition used in crimes to their origin. I will also foster our relationships with state, regional, and federal law enforcement partners.
Attorney Thiru Vignarajah is a former Deputy Attorney General in Maryland as well as a former federal prosecutor. He’s pledging to reduce homicides in the city to less than 200 per year, which would be a dramatic drop from the recent highs, and his 20-point plan doesn’t mention any new gun control laws. Instead, the former prosecutor wants to expand aerial surveillance, wiretapping of suspected gang and drug leaders, and move school resource officers to street patrols.
We know gun violence is driven by a small number of identifiable repeat offenders, typically members of gangs, who ravage essentially the same neighborhoods year after year. Because of this, dramatically reducing gun violence does not require mass incarceration, zero tolerance, or cash bail. What is needed is relentless focus on the deadliest neighborhoods, deadliest criminals, and deadliest crimes. City Hall has failed to deliver that focus and, as a result, has failed to deliver justice to countless Baltimore families.
I don’t think any of these candidates are strong supporters of the right to keep and bear arms, and virtually none of them express any support on their campaign websites for any sort of pro-Second Amendment message. At the same time, it’s worth noting that none of them are touting traditional gun control laws either. Instead, they’re playing up their support for focused deterrence, ending “mass incarceration,” and other efforts that focus on cleaning up the Baltimore Police Department and targeting the most dangerous criminals in the city. It’s a small step in the right direction for the city, and it’s another indication that even on the Left, there’s a debate about the effectiveness of the traditional gun control model that promises the ability to ban and arrest our way to safety.