Durham Wants New Gun Laws, Won’t Enforce the Ones it Already Has

Surprising absolutely no one, a report entitled “Felons with Firearms in Durham County” shows that out of 363 arrests for “felon in possession” in the last three years, 53% of were dropped.

The report also indicates people sent to prison from Durham for possession as a firearm as their most serious crime have declined steeply. From 2016 to 2018, there was a 54 percent decrease in prison entries for that charge (from 35 to 16), while North Carolina saw an 11 percent increase.

I have my problems with the idea of a permanent ban on gun possession for those who have completed their sentence, but it certainly puts into perspective the recent attacks on lawful gun ownership while Durham, one of the most violent cities in this state, doesn’t seem to care about actual lawbreaking.

“I think it raises questions as to what happens when someone is arrested on that charge,” said report author Jim Stuit, gang reduction strategy manager for Durham County.

Ya think?

There are some reasons that these charges get dropped.

“A defendant may be charged with armed robbery and with possession of a firearm by a felon,” [professor of public law and government at the UNC School of Government and director of the North Carolina Judicial College] Welty wrote. “If the defendant agrees to plead guilty to the robbery, the State might agree to dismiss the gun charge. There’s nothing nefarious or inappropriate about that.”

Daniel Meier, a Durham defense attorney, said to really know if a dismissal is meaningful, “you need to know what, if anything, wasn’t dismissed.”

But this seems to me to be a red herring. If you’ve got the guy on a big charge, what’s the harm on adding the “felon in possession” charge? Failing to do so sends the message that as long as you’re willing to commit bigger crimes, no one will care that you do it with a firearm.

“At least at first blush, it makes it seem like we are not taking firearms seriously,” Meier said. “I think that is one of the big issues. Before you start focusing on new gun laws and everything else, enforce the ones we have.”

City Manager Tom Bonfield was surprised by the number of dismissals.
”It does seem to me to send a signal that the possession of a firearm by a felon is not that big of deal,” he said. “There is not really consequences.”

I’d like to get my hands on the actual report, but it doesn’t seem to be available online. The story certainly didn’t link to it, and a Google search doesn’t reveal it.

Warren, in comments, provides a link to the report itself.


2 responses to “Durham Wants New Gun Laws, Won’t Enforce the Ones it Already Has

  1. Warren,
    Yes, thanks! I’ll add it to the post.