More Gun Laws for Baltimore?

The faith of liberals in laws, no matter how sporadically or inefficiently enforced, never ceases to amaze.

City Councilman Jim Kraft remembers the day he was searching a back alley in West Baltimore for rats, but found something deadlier and more disturbing – two loaded handguns.

“They were sitting on top of a garage, just sitting there waiting for somebody to use them.”

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Kraft uses the startling discovery to explain his desire to allow the City Council to pass gun laws, a privilege currently granted only to the state’s legislature.

“Our colleagues in other parts of the state don’t really understand the severity of the gun problem in Baltimore,” said Kraft, D-1st District. “We need to be able to pass our own laws.”

To spur action, Kraft introduced a non-binding resolution at Monday’s council meeting formally asking state legislators to pass a law — during its regular session beginning in January — allowing the city to regulate guns.

What Mr. Kraft is proposing is a civil forfeiture ordinance similar to those now used in drug cases.

I don’t know how this law would have prevented Mr. Kraft from finding the loaded handguns while out looking for rats (or, based on the photo, scavenging for clothing) in a Baltimore alley. Is he advocating the forfeiture of the trash cans? Who knows.

The problem with gun crime in Baltimore is two-fold. First, there are a lot of criminals in Baltimore who prefer to use firearms. I don’t know why, but it is simply an unhappy fact. They are called criminals because they are already violating various and sundry laws that would buy them a decade or so in Jessup. Few own substantial property and, given their life choices to date, would seem to be singularly undeterred by the prospect of breaking yet another law.

The second problem feeds the first. It has been fairly well documented that Baltimore juries tend to be reluctant to convict accused felons regardless of the evidence. Nothing unusual here. A lot of minority-majority communities are skeptical of police testimony and show a political reluctance to send yet another man to jail. As a result, the police don’t tend to arrest for a lot of crimes that could keep criminals and their guns off the street. And criminals aren’t deterred by the threat of being caught… assuming for the sake of argument that criminals can be deterred at all.

Beyond this civil forfeiture laws are simply a bad idea. They have made the War on Drugs a profit center for a lot police departments and the forfeitures encourage abuses of the system. It is bad enough when forfeitures are applied to an unambiguously illegal action like narcotics trafficking. When the same laws are applied to an action that can exist legally side-by-side with its illegal version it is difficult to imagine much good coming out of this.

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