Reforms are needed to make Project Exile work in...


February 20, 2000

Reforms are needed to make Project Exile work in Maryland

The Sun's editorial, "It's past the time for a crackdown on guns" (Feb. 6) was past due, but certainly welcome.

Project Exile is a proven crime-fighting initiative which denies gun-toting criminals bail and plea bargains and sentences them to mandatory prison terms.

In three years, under Project Exile in Richmond, 576 criminals have been prosecuted.

As a result, Richmond's murder rate dropped from 68 murders per 100,000 persons to 38 murders per 100,000 persons.

Under existing federal laws, the U.S. attorney for Maryland could easily adopt Project Exile to combat Baltimore's spiraling murder rate.

In Maryland, however, gun charges are routinely plea bargained by prosecutors. In Baltimore, over the past five years the U, S. Attorney's office has prosecuted only 275 gun-toting criminals.

Accordingly, since 1994, the murder rate in Baltimore has increased from 43 murders per 100,000 to 46 per 100,000.

Sadly the message has not been lost on criminals: In Richmond, they know they will be prosecuted; in Baltimore, they know they might be prosecuted.

Project Exile can proceed in Maryland only if legislation pending in Annapolis passes this legislative session.

Bills that would close a loophole which allows convicted felons to avoid mandatory prison sentences and establish new standards to deny bail to persons arrested with guns would bring our laws in line with those Richmond has used so successfully.

Virginia's approach works. Frankly, Maryland's does not.

Why not adopt a different approach? Why the resistance to change?

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.


The writer represents Maryland's 2nd District in the House of Representatives.

The Sun's Feb. 6 editorial concerning illegal guns was right on the mark.

Its all so simple. Under Project Exile, if caught with an illegal handgun you get five years in the slammer -- no bail, no parole. The criminals know this, so why is it so hard to enforce?

Why should the criminal justice system operate under the shadow of says about the fairness of mandatory sentences?

If you can't do the time, don't commit the crime.

The program is evidently working in Richmond, so don't reinvent the wheel.

David Michael O'Beirne


We need to teach kids consequences of gun crimes

I greatly appreciated The Sun's editorial on the suspected police killer and his treacherous past ("Suspected cop killer deserved exile," Feb. 16).

It underscored how imperative it is for Maryland to enforce its gun laws and give felons their stipulated sentences.

I've followed the articles about Project Exile and Project Disarm, and I wonder how many more tragic killings must occur before our state wakes up.

While gun control doesn't seem to be working, criminal control might help reduce the murder rate.

It was interesting to see the various places Richmond has advertised the consequences if someone was arrested for a felony and has a gun.

Maryland should follow suit -- and maybe one additional place to advertise should be in all the state high schools.

We've brought education about sex and substance abuse into our school systems' curriculum; now we need to add one more vital bit of "information" to round out children's education.

Barbara Blumberg Baltimore

Locking up criminals won't make guns safe

Recent editorials in The Sun have made a good case for using Project Exile or Project Disarm to rid the streets of career criminals with mandatory sentences and no parole or plea bargaining for felons caught carrying handguns.

These programs have strong support from both sides of the gun issue as effective measures to reduce street crimes.

But they only address part of this country's gun death epidemic. In addition to homicides, this country leads all other free nations in the rate of accidental deaths.

Also, most suicides are committed with guns. Depression among young people can be treated, but allowing easy access to guns can be deadly, as 92 percent of suicide attempts with guns result in death.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening's proposed personalized or child-proof weapons bill would effectively address these problems. It makes more sense to make the product safer than to rely on the proper use of such deadly weapons.

The gun lobby and gun manufacturers argue that "the technology is not there." But this country has often met whatever technological challenges it had to.

The gun industry has been able to develop technology to make guns more effective killing machines. It should be up to the challenge of applying as much effort to making them safer.

Fred Davis


The writer is president of the education fund of Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse.

In battle for neighborhood, hope remains alive

Reading Ella Durant's "City Diary" column about Preston Street, "Changing seasons on a corner," (Opinion Commentary, Feb. 9), I felt as if I had written this article about the 300 block of North Stricker Street in the Franklin Square community. We witness this same drug activity every day.

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