A bill attempting to crack down on so-called ghost guns is moving forward in Maryland.
The Maryland House passed the Senate version of SB 387 on Tuesday and is now headed to the desk of Governor Larry Hogan (R.). The bill would prohibit the sale, transfer, or possession of any completed firearm or unfinished receiver without a permanent serial number that was manufactured after October 22, 1968. Those who currently own unserialized firearms made after 1986 could face up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 for each one they don’t surrender to authorities.
“This bill closes a loophole that makes it difficult for law enforcement to do its job and creates a terrible public safety threat,” Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a major proponent of the bill, said in a statement. “This legislation will save lives.”
Governor Hogan’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the bill, but a spokesperson for his office previously told the Associated Press that he will consider the legislation once it reaches his desk.
The bill stands to make Maryland the tenth state to pass legislation targeting ‘ghost guns’, an activist-given name used typically to describe homemade or unserialized firearms. In recent years, regulations on homemade firearms have become a major priority for gun-control advocates as the guns have become increasingly common.
Supporters of ‘ghost gun’ regulation say it is necessary in order to combat criminal behavior.
“These untraceable firearms have become the weapon of choice for criminals,” Frosh said. “They are easily purchased over the internet without a background check, making them easily accessible to children, violent felons, domestic abusers, and others who are ineligible to own a firearm.”
Gun-rights advocates criticized the bill because it would interfere with the ability of law-abiding adults to self-manufacture firearms.
“Senate Bill 387 is overly broad and will end the centuries-old practice of individuals building lawful firearms for personal use,” the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action said. “It prohibits transfer or possession of certain unfinished firearm parts that are not regulated under federal law, as well as firearms without serial numbers, with an exemption for pre-1968 firearms and antiques.”
Gun-control activists cheered the passing of the bill and encouraged Governor Hogan to sign it into law.
“One thing is certain: ghost guns are an extreme threat to communities across Maryland, and it’s time for that to change,” Melissa Ladd, a volunteer leader with the Maryland chapter of Moms Demand Action, said. “Thanks to tireless advocacy by gun safety champions and allies, our state now has a clear path to prohibiting these dangerous, untraceable weapons. We are grateful to lawmakers in the House for their steadfast commitment throughout this process to ending gun violence, and we urge Governor Hogan to sign the bill into law and make Maryland a safer place.”
If signed, the bill would ban the sale of unserialized firearms on June 1, 2022. Possession of these guns would become illegal in the state on March 1, 2023.