Mayor proposes change in gun crime law

Mayor Bill Bell (images courtesy City of Durham/Wikimedia)
January 11, 2013 2:59:08 PM PST
Durham's mayor is asking both city and county leaders to fight for a change in state law when it comes to people who commit gun crimes.

Mayor Bill Bell spent Friday pleading with the City-County Crime Cabinet to support a change in state law.

"This proposed amendment is not a cure-all for preventing crimes with firearms," said Bell.

Currently, after an arrest, a magistrate immediately sets the bond amount. Under Bell's new plan, a person who commits a crime with a firearm would be held without bond until a district or superior court judge could set their bail. That is if the offender was already accused of another gun-related crime or if they were convicted of a gun-related crime in the past five years.

For more than a year, Bell has pushed for higher bail amounts for gun crimes, drawing sharp criticism.

"From a judge's perspective, we want to make sure that people are presumed innocent and that they have the constitutional right to bond," District Court Judge Marcia Morey said.

Still, the city's spike in violence has some backing his proposal.

"We all support civil liberties, as the judge has pointed out, but on occasion we need to take the handcuffs off the good guys. I think this proposal does just that," council member Eugene Brown said.

The man in charge of Durham's safety was also on hand at Friday's crime cabinet meeting. Police chief Jose Lopez put his support behind the mayor's plan, but is still calling on everyday citizens to make a difference.

The chief took out a full page ad in a local newspaper urging the community to come together to combat gang and gun violence.

"By identifying those who are in these gangs, where the firearms are stored and disarming our own children which are important in order to stop the violence," Lopez writes.

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