As Baltimore police and prosecutors try to tamp down a sustained spike in violence, many of the charges against people caught with illegal guns aren’t sticking, or defendants are only jailed for a small fraction of their sentence, the Baltimore Sun reports. About one-quarter of such gun cases are dropped before defendants go to trial. Even when defendants are convicted of illegally possessing a firearm, prosecutors say they are sentenced on average to 16 months in jail, with a substantial portion of their sentences suspended. Fewer people arrested with illegal guns are ordered held without bail.
In one case, a 23-year-old man was granted bail after being arrested in the city with a fully loaded revolver, and now is accused of fatally stabbing a man five days after his release. The arrestee had a felony record and faced a mandatory five years in prison on the gun charge. “There’s no certainty of a consequence,” Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said of the Baltimore justice system, adding that he believes carrying an illegal gun should be viewed as a “pre-murder” crime. Daniel Webster, a Johns Hopkins University professor who studies gun crime, said research shows “focusing on gun offenders very consistently, when done well, correlates with fewer people getting shot.” The city is on track for more than 300 homicides this year, and last year’s count reached a historic per-capita high.