New Maryland Law Banning Ghost Guns Takes Effect Today

by Patrick Herron

A new law banning “ghost guns”, which are privately manufactured guns that do not have serial numbers, goes into effect today. Anyone who possesses a “ghost gun” will now be subject to a misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison. Individuals who sell or transfer unserialized firearms would be subject to a misdemeanor punishable by up to five years in prison, or a $10,000 fine, and would be no longer be able to own firearms.

While Governor Hogan allowed the legislation to become law, he did not sign the bill.  “I appreciate the work you have put into Senate Bill 387/House Bill 425 to address issues surrounding untraceable firearms, and agree that it is a positive step as we seek to stem the tide of violent crime, which is why I am allowing it to take effect, but it does nothing to penalize those who actually pull the triggers on firearms, and deflects away from the need to take decisive action to hold violent criminals accountable,” Hogan said in April.

In April 6 the Montgomery County Council approved a bill prohibits the use and sale of “ghost guns”.
ROCKVILLE, Md., April 6, 2021—Today the Montgomery County Council unanimously approved Bill 4-21, Weapons – Protection of Minors and Public Places – Restrictions Against Ghost Guns and Undetectable Guns, otherwise known as the “Ghost Guns Bill.” Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz was the lead sponsor and his Council colleagues served as cosponsors of this pivotal legislation.

Ghost guns or do-it-yourself guns are unserialized firearms built by unlicensed individuals. Currently, these untraceable guns often evade detection and are not entirely prohibited by federal and state laws. Generally, kits to build ghost guns are readily sold on the internet, without the requirement of federal background checks. However, individuals may build ghost guns at home using blueprints and 3D printers. To date only California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington State have established regulations to prohibit the manufacture, sale, or use of ghost guns. With this groundbreaking legislation, Montgomery County will be the first local jurisdiction in Maryland to prohibit access of ghost guns to minors under 18 years old and within 100 yards of public assembly.

“In the past year, ghost gun sales have skyrocketed across the country, including in Montgomery County. The immediate accessibility and the obscurity of ghost gun detection in areas of public assembly poses an absolute threat to the safety of our community,” said Council Vice President Albornoz, who also serves as the chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “Bill 4-21 will restrict minors to access ghost guns and it will also serve as a call to action for our federal and state legislators to act. We know that gun violence does not distinguish boundaries, however, it is our moral responsibility to implement measures that will safeguard our youth, residents, and families from immediate harm.”

The Ghost Guns Bill prohibits the use and sale of ghost guns to the greatest extent possible consistent with state law.

The Ghost Guns Bill would also do the following:

  • define terms related to firearm laws;
  • restrict the possession, use, sale, and transfer of ghost guns, undetectable guns, and certain other firearms with respect to minors;
  • restrict the possession, use, sale, and transfer of ghost guns, undetectable guns, and certain other firearms within 100 yards of places of public assembly;
  • require the Montgomery County Police Department to submit an annual report to the County Executive and the County Council regarding the availability and use of ghost guns and undetectable guns in the County, and;
  • generally amend the law regarding firearms and other weapons.

The purpose of Bill 4-21 is to address the dangers that ghost guns presents to the community and establishes restrictions in Montgomery County that are consistent with limitations placed upon localities by Maryland’s state preemption to locally regulate firearms. Under Maryland law, the County generally is preempted to regulate firearms. In spite of this, state law carves out certain exceptions in which the County may regulate. In particular, the County may regulate the sale, use, or transfer of firearms with respect to minors and within 100 yards of a place of public assembly.

The Council staff report can be viewed here.

The Racial Equity and Social Justice (RESJ) impact statement can be viewed here.

The virtual press conference regarding Bill 4-21 and its impact on our community can be viewed here.


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