We are embroiled once again in a call for tougher gun laws. From my observation (on a very local level), I see that failure to prosecute when guns are involved as being relevant to this debate. Our state's attorney and those working within that office are responsible for levying criminal charges and prosecuting in such a manner as to safeguard the citizens. This appears to be far from our reality.
I am aware that the use of plea bargaining is a tool widely used, but I can’t help notice the frequency with which plea bargaining is used here in Cecil County. I refer specifically to the recent case in which a man fired his gun through a front door wounding two inside. Instead of prosecuting, as is the duty of the state's attorney's office, a plea deal was negotiated. Since the two victims and eyewitnesses could not be located to testify, the most serious counts were handily dropped. These included attempted second-degree murder and first-degree assault and 10 other charges, including use of a handgun (which surely should be a crime of violence) and two counts of reckless endangerment. The person firing his gun, received as his punishment 128 days: the time he had already served. The compliant judge imposed a six-year sentence and then suspended all but the 127 days.
Our laws have no teeth when we have prosecutors willing to plea bargain away the most serious charges. Add to this, lenient judges who accept the bargains, giving ridiculously light sentences to those committing gun violence. Thus, back to my point. If we aren’t going to become serious in prosecuting crimes when guns are involved, then what is the point of enacting yet more laws that will continue to be circumvented?
In a completely unrelated case, an eight-year sentence was given to a man who stole baseball cards and comics. Our judicial system seems to be serious when it comes to theft. But with gun violence, a slap on the wrist seems to suffice.
Rebecca Demmler is a former Cecil County Commissioner.