COLLEGE PARK — With votes imminent on his gun-control legislation and the outcome still in doubt, Gov. Parris N. Glendening focused Thursday on ways to fight gun crime apart from passing new laws.
“Regardless of what happens in the Legislature, we intend to aggressively continue our struggle against gun violence,” Glendening said during a special “gun enforcement summit” at the University of Maryland.
House and Senate committees are expected to vote on the governor’s gun-control package this week, and Glendening said a single vote will make the difference in both houses.
The legislation would license handgun buyers, limit purchases to one a month and require waiting periods and criminal background checks for private sales.
The event, called The Governor’s Gun Enforcement Summit, drew an estimated 100 local police chiefs and state’s attorneys.
Following the governor’s remarks, university criminologist Lawrence Sherman outlined a strategy credited with drastically reducing gun crime in Kansas City. The approach involves aggressive confiscation of weapons in “hot spots” where statistics show most gun crimes occur.
Under the strategy, officers are freed from the responsibility of answering radio calls and are assigned to patrol hot spots exclusively. They make traffic stops and frisk suspicious pedestrians, looking for illegal weapons.
The approach reduced gun violence in Kansas City by nearly 50 percent, Sherman said.
Such targeted patrolling was also a key factor in a dramatic reduction of gun crime in New York City, according to that city’s police commissioner, William J. Bratton, who also spoke at the conference.
In Maryland, the city of Salisbury will begin stepped up patrols of its gun-crime hot spots next week with assistance from state police, officials said. That Eastern Shore city was the scene of a Christmas Eve shooting at a mall that left one dead and two wounded.
The idea of targeted confiscation was well received by local law enforcement officials attending the conference, but a lawyer representing the American Civil Liberties Union warned it might violate the constitutional ban against unreasonable police searches.
Greenbelt attorney Michael Statham said gun seizures in only certain areas could also lead to discrimination against African-American men.
“If I’m black and in a hot spot with my license plate light out, I’ll be stopped,” Statham said.
But John S. Farrell, the new police chief in Prince George’s County, likes the approach. Farrell said his examination of Prince George’s crime statistics uncovered the same hot spots that citizens are complaining about.
“We’re going to go out, and we’re going to hit the hot spots,” he vowed.
Andrew L. Sonner, Montgomery County state’s attorney, said he had watched authorities lose the war against drugs and guns during 32 years as a prosecutor.
“It’s time for fresh approaches,” Sonner said. “I have very little problem with rearranging the priorities to go after the guns.”
Col. David B. Mitchell, superintendent of the Maryland State Police, said his department stands ready to provide training and manpower to local jurisdictions wanting to confiscate guns. State police launched their own gun-confiscation program, Operation Ceasefire, last year.
The Baltimore City Police Department has also been concentrating on gun seizure. The department announced on Tuesday that it had taken 814 firearms off Baltimore streets during the first two months of this year. Last year in Maryland, guns were used in 375 murders, including the shooting death of a state trooper, Mitchell said. -30-