If Prince George’s County legislators have their way, police will be able to track the whereabouts of gun offenders similarly to the way sex offenders are tracked.

Councilwoman Karen Toles, D.-Dist. 7, sponsored the legislation that would make anyone convicted of a gun offense check in with the police on a regular basis.

When the offender goes to register with the police, he or she will be required to provide their name, a description of the crime committed, the date the crime was committed, any aliases or legal names the offender previously used, identifying factors of the offender, place of residence and place of employment.

A similar update would be required every six months under this law as well.

“Within 20 calendar days after each six month anniversary of a gun offender’s initial registration, the gun offender shall personally appear at the office designated by the Chief of Police to verify and update, as appropriate, the contents of the registration,” the bill reads. “If the gun offender is confined to any correctional facility, hospital, or institution throughout the 20 day period, the gun offender shall personally appear at an office designated by the Chief of Police, within 48 hours of release, to verify and update, as appropriate, the contents of the registration.”

Offenders must appear at a place designated by the police chief within 10 days of a change of residence or employment.

Toles is becoming known as the public safety councilmember. She was the sponsor of the dance hall legislation, which changed the way nightclub owners registered their businesses and made them establish firm security and safety measures for their establishments.

That law immediately resulted in the shutdown of Music Sports and Games in Capitol Heights and the conviction of its owner and managers for being non compliant after a woman was murdered last summer.

As with the dance hall legislation, failing to comply with this would result in stiff penalties. According to the bill, anyone who fails to register, provide an update or who provides false information “shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be subject to a fine not exceeding $1,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 12 months, or both such fine and imprisonment. Each day that a violation continues is a separate offense.”

Gun offenses are deemed to be everything from use of a handgun in commission of a crime to reckless endangerment to the removal of the serial number on a firearm to illegally transporting firearms.

The registry currently has the support of both the State’s Attorney’s office and the Prince George’s Police Department as representatives from both agencies addressed the Public Safety and Fiscal Management Committee about the bill on April 17.

There is concern about the financial impact of the registry on the police department, but the council hopes to have a better view on that before it votes on the bill later this spring.
 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO