Maryland Republican lawmakers are proposing a package of bills to combat juvenile crime, gun crimes, and violent offenders. The move comes as there is heightened concern among the public about rising crime rates in the state.

During a news conference on Thursday, the General Assembly’s Joint Republican Caucus shared details about their priority crime package, with House Minority Whip Jesse Pippy, R-Frederick, emphasizing the continuing rise in juvenile crime. Pippy pointed out that Baltimore City has experienced over 300 homicides each year for the last eight consecutive years.

House Minority Whip Jesse Pippy speaks at the Maryland Joint Republican Caucus press conference on March 2, 2023. Credit: Christine Zhu / Capital News Service

“The top issue Marylanders are most concerned about is the violent crime crisis,” Pippy said. “It should be a top priority for every legislator.”

The Juvenile Gun Offenses Accountability Act, HB753, sponsored by Del. Nic Kipke, R-Anne Arundel, is one of the bills proposed. The act would allow some minors to be charged with gun crimes by making adjustments to last year’s juvenile justice reforms. Currently, minors under the age of 13 can only be prosecuted for violent crimes. HB753 would grant jurisdiction to the juvenile court over minors between the ages of 10 and 12 who are alleged to commit offenses involving firearms. This could include ordering behavioral therapy or detainment.

“We cannot expect young people to fully understand the impact of crimes that they might commit if we do not hold them accountable,” Kipke said. “Holding them accountable does not just mean throwing a kid in jail.”

Del. Rachel Muñoz, R-Anne Arundel, also introduced the Gun Theft Felony Act, HB 750, which seeks to make firearm theft a felony. This bill was prompted by an incident in which her husband was robbed at gunpoint at the West Annapolis pharmacy where he works. A suspect was later charged, but the family has no idea how the suspect, who had an “extensive criminal history,” obtained the weapon.

Senate Republicans are also seeking to pass SB 744, the Violent Firearms Offender Act, which would upgrade using a firearm in a violent crime from a misdemeanor to a felony. It would also remove the “drug dealer loophole,” whereby drug dealers receive a lighter sentence than others convicted of the same offense.

“Right now, criminals in some jurisdictions are not fearing any consequences,” Folden said. “It is time to refocus our efforts on protecting our citizens and restoring the victim’s faith in the process.”

Republican lawmakers have been prioritizing addressing violent crime for years, but legislation targeting repeat offenders typically dies. Senate Minority Whip Justin Ready, R-Frederick and Carroll, emphasized the importance of bipartisan support for the package.

“We are really imploring our colleagues in the supermajority Democratic side of things in both the House and Senate to join us,” Ready said.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/EditorEditor-in-Chief

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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