Baltimore Hesitates on Gun Tax
- Nov 20, 2015 | Gail Cole
In late October 2015, 155 police officers in Baltimore started wearing body cameras. They come from various parts of the city and various departments within the force, and they’re participating in a body camera pilot program that will last through December.
Three different types of cameras are being evaluated to determine which “best suits Baltimore and this community.” The department hopes to implement a force-wide program in February 2016. In the meantime, citizens will be informed when dealing with officers wearing a camera and may request that the camera be turned off.
As the department works to select the right system, the city is trying to figure out how to fund the program. It’s not easy. As President Obama noted when speaking to national police chiefs last month, it is essential to have “a budget that backs it up, not just because talk is cheap, but actually following through to make sure you have the resources you need” (wbaltv.com).
One possibility is a 10% special sales tax on handguns and handgun ammunition. The Baltimore City Council has been considering this option, which could “generate an ongoing revenue stream that could be used to provide matching grants to local jurisdictions to obtain and maintain body cameras for their officers.”
However, the council's Public Safety Committee voted 3-1 against the tax earlier this week, with one member abstaining (see minutes from the Public Safety Committee meeting of 11/17/2015).
City Councilman Carl Stokes, a mayoral candidate, has not given up on the idea. He notes, “[T]he special fee tax on bullets and guns could go a long way to help take care of that cost.” And Councilman Bill Henry plans to “sell the idea of a special sales tax to state lawmakers.”
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