March 2, 2023
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: MEDIA ADVISORY
Megan Miller, Communication
Carrie Simons-Sparrow, Chief Of Staff
Senate and House Republicans Offer Solutions to Violent Crime Crisis
Ask what it will take for the General Assembly to get serious about violent crime
ANNAPOLIS, MD – Today, The Joint Republican Caucus in the Maryland General Assembly discussed their priority legislation to combat Maryland’s violent crime crisis, including the continued rise in juvenile crime.
“The top issue Marylanders are most concerned about is crime, and this should be the priority for every legislator,” said House Minority Whip Jesse Pippy (District 4 – Frederick). “While there is a great deal of talk about crime, little has been done about it. The crime statistics get worse every year, and thousands of lives have been lost. Crime should not be a partisan issue, but with all this state has endured it leads you to question what will it take for the General Assembly to pass comprehensive legislation to curb violent crime? We are offering this package of bills in the hope that we can work together to make our communities safe.”
One measure in the House package is HB 753 – Juvenile Gun Offenses Accountability Act of 2023, sponsored by Delegate Nic Kipke (District 31– Anne Arundel). This measure focuses on the juvenile reforms made last year that prohibit the prosecution of most minors under the age of 13. Under current law, minors ages 10-12 can only be prosecuted for crimes of violence. This was the issue at hand when a 12-year-old brought a gun, loaded magazine, and ammunition to school in his backpack earlier this year in Anne Arundel County. Due to last year’s bill, the 12-year-old could not be charged with a crime. House Bill 753 would allow minors aged 10-12 to be charged with gun crimes.
“Sadly, violence has become all too common for many of Maryland’s children, and we cannot wait until tragedy strikes to do something about it,” said Delegate Kipke. “We are all familiar with the story of the child who brought the gun to school in Anne Arundel County earlier this year. His actions endangered hundreds of students and teachers. The mere act of bringing a gun to school should be enough to prompt criminal charges. We should not wait for a life-destroying act before we hold minors accountable.”
The Republican legislative package also includes initiatives to make the theft of a gun a more serious crime. Currently, Maryland’s theft statute is based on the value of what was stolen, not on the item itself. The theft of an item valued at less than $1,500 is a misdemeanor, so the theft of a PlayStation 5 and the theft of a Colt 1911 are treated the same under the law – both misdemeanor offenses. House Bill 750 – Gun Theft Felony Act of 2023 makes the theft of any gun a felony, subject to up to 5 years in prison and/or a $1000 fine for the first offense and up to 10 years in prison and/or a $2,500 fine for subsequent offenses. Senate Bill 564 – Criminal Law – Theft of a Handgun is a more focused measure making the theft of a handgun a felony with the same penalties with a mandatory minimum of time served. SB 564 has a hearing today in the Senate’s Judicial Proceeding Committee.
These measures have a particular resonance with Delegate Rachel Muñoz (District 31 – Anne Arundel), who is the lead sponsor of the House measure.
“I originally sponsored this bill at the request of a constituent in my District,” said Muñoz. “At that time there was no way for me to know what the future held for my family, and how much more this bill would come to mean to me.”
In February, Delegate Muñoz’s husband Andrew, a pharmacist, was robbed at gunpoint at the pharmacy where he works in West Annapolis.
“A masked man with a loaded gun jumped the pharmacy counter, made the elderly cashier lay down on the floor, and held a gun in my husband’s face while demanding he fill a bag with narcotics,” said Muñoz. “I cannot quantify the terror I felt when I learned what had happened and then thought about what could have happened. How could I tell our five children that they had lost their father?”
The suspect in the robbery was apprehended that same night and is currently being held without bond. He is a prohibited person with an extensive criminal history. The Muñoz family has not yet been told how the suspect obtained the gun. According to the ATF, theft is one of the most common ways criminals acquire firearms.
“I realize how lucky my family was that night,” said Delegate Muñoz. “Quickly, my terror has turned into anger as I think of all the families in our state that have not been as lucky. Every day in Maryland someone learns that their father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, relative, or friend is not coming home because they have been the victim of a violent crime. When will it be enough? What is the metric that will make the General Assembly get serious about combating violent crime?”
The Senate Republican Caucus legislative package also includes SB 744 – Violent Firearms Offender Act of 2023. SB 744 is a reintroduction of the version of the Violent Firearms Offenders Act that passed the Senate during the 2021 Session. A previous iteration of the bill also passed the Senate in 2020. The Violent Firearms Offender Act of 2023 has bipartisan co-sponsors this year and includes the following provisions:
- Raises using a firearm in a violent crime to a felony from a misdemeanor.
- Removes the drug dealer loophole where drug dealers receive a lighter sentence than someone else convicted of the same offense.
- increases penalties for illegally possessing a firearm to 5 years or $10k fine on first offense, and then to 10 years or $10K fine thereafter.
- Makes knowingly selling a firearm to someone who plans to use it in the commission of a crime a felony.
“Right now, criminals don’t fear consequences. The Violent Firearms Offenders Act targets repeat, violent offenders and gives prosecutors more tools to hold them accountable, said Senator William Folden (District 4 – Frederick County) and the bill’s lead sponsor. “We hear over and over that crime prevention and creating safer communities requires a multi-faceted approach, but the facet that is always ignored is accountability. We will work to get this bill through the Senate for the third time, and we implore leadership in the House to finally take some action on this legislation.
There are only 40 days left in the 2023 Legislative Session, but there is still plenty of time to pass these bills.
It is very important to keep in mind that if there is the will of the body to move something, it will pass,” said Senate Minority Whip Justin Ready (District 5 – Frederick & Carroll). “In Governor Moore’s public safety announcement last week, he said that Maryland’s violent crime crisis is not a Baltimore City problem or a Democrat or Republican a problem. It is a Maryland problem. We agree that the problem has spread all over our state. We want to take action and are imploring our Democratic colleagues to join us. There are no coincidences in Annapolis. If the Democratic supermajority is willing to fight to keep Marylanders safe, they have plenty of time to do the right thing.”