DETROIT (WXYZ) — One of the largest public defender offices in Wayne County today called for prosecutor Kym Worthy to drop all cases against those accused of carrying a concealed weapon.
“We shouldn’t let these kinds of cases, which do not make us any safer, clog up our legal system,” said Chanta Parker, managing director of Neighborhood Defender Services, or NDS, of Detroit.
As 7 Action News reported Monday, the number of people charged with just carrying a concealed weapon in Wayne County has exploded since the pandemic. NDS reports that 70% of its clients charged with the crime legally own their weapon and, citing internal statistics, said 97% are black.
In a press conference today, they called for Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy to dismiss CCW-only charges currently pending.
“The vast majority of the CCW arrests are involving legal guns, legally owned by the arrestees,” said Arnie Chambers, a criminal defense attorney. “Most have very little if any prior contacts with law enforcement, yet they’re being charged with felonies.”
Michigan is an open-carry state, which means you can carry a legally owned and registered weapon so long as it’s in full view. But the law is frequently misunderstood,with some gun owners thinking they can tuck their firearm into their waistband, or drive with it in the car.
A CCW charge is a five-year felony in Michigan.
“It is not in the interest of justice to prosecute these individuals for crimes simply because they have an ignorance of the law,” said attorney James King.
Detroit police chief James White sees it very differently.
“There is no mandate, there is no push to get more guns off the street,” he said during an interview with 7 Action News in November. “But the push is to make our community safe. And if someone is illegally carrying a weapon and the officers come in contact with them, they’re going to make that arrest.”
Legal gun owners can still pose a clear danger, White said.
Just last Friday, Detroit police were called to an apartment on the city’s east side after a small child was shot twice by her own mother.
After first saying she was robbed, she later admitted to police that she pulled the trigger by accident while she was cleaning her gun.
DPD says she owned her gun legally and had a license to carry a concealed pistol.
“The bottom line is, we got a 4-year-old baby who was shot in this house,” White said.
When previously asked about the increase in CCW charges, Prosecutor Kym Worthy stressed that her office dismissed warrants on more than 1,500 CCW arrests and has referred more than 600 others to diversion programs, which allow those charged to avoid a criminal record.
She says her office no longer charges gun owners whose concealed pistol license has expired within the last year.