BALTIMORE – Mayor Sheila Dixon says the city's fight against violence must emphasize the elimination of illegal guns, proposing a gun offender registry and police gun unit to help get the weapons off the streets.
Dixon announced her plans on Wednesday standing among some 300 sawed-off shotguns, revolvers and semiautomatic handguns seized in the past month.
Dixon proposed the re-establishment of a police gun unit to trace illegal weapons to their sellers; forcing city residents convicted of gun offenses to register with police, and tracking information on gun arrests, convictions and sentences.
"We're going to have to curb the violence in this city by going after these illegal guns," Dixon said. "I don't know how more plain and simple I can make it."
Called GunStat, the new gun offender registry would require approval from the City Council.
"This is going to mean some extra work for our police. But we are all in this together," Dixon said, insisting that her proposal would not target legal gun owners. "We're not saying that you can't own one."
Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm said he supported the proposal for his city where 93 people have been killed this year, all but 13 from gunshot wounds. Nonfatal shootings have increased to 233, up from 176 in 2006.
Paul Blair, the head of Baltimore's police union, has been critical of department understaffing and questioned how much more work would now be required of officers.
"Where did they find the extra police sitting around?" Blair asked. "Where are we going to find these people to do (the tracking)?"
City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake said that passing the gun registry legislation would be a "significant priority" for the council this year.
Dixon does not expect her proposals to need much additional city funding. "We're just going to be doing it a little smarter, a little better," she said.