Maryland state, county lawmakers target ghost guns

Legislators from Montgomery County, Maryland, are proposing new restrictions on so-called “ghost guns” at the state and county levels.

Ghost guns are firearms that can be made using a 3D printer, or are assembled from parts sold in kits. They get the name because they don’t have serial numbers, so they can’t be traced.

Montgomery County Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz is introducing county legislation that would regulate ghost guns — barring anyone from transferring ownership of a ghost gun to a minor and barring the manufacture of a ghost gun in the presence of a minor.

The bill would also prohibit the sale, transfer, manufacture or possession of ghost guns “within 100 yards of a place of public assembly,” such as a school, church or community center.

The firearms would also face new restrictions under a bill proposed by Del. Lesley Lopez, who said it is not a ban. Lopez represents Montgomery County.

Manufacturing firearms for personal use is legal, Lopez said.

“It’s really important that people who are law-abiding citizens still have the ability to make their own firearms for their own purposes.”

Lopez’s bill would regulate the sale and manufacture of receivers.

“A receiver, or a frame, is a piece of metal or polymer that basically brings the whole firearm together. You can’t have a fully functional firearm if you don’t have a frame or a receiver that works,” she said.

The bill would make it so that anyone who is selling an unfinished receiver in the state has the same serialization, as if they were selling a finished receiver; and, it also requires a handgun qualifying license for anyone who is buying an unfinished receiver.

Albornoz said Montgomery County’s proposed legislation on ghost guns, in addition to the state bill, is a “one-two punch.”

“Prior to us embarking on this legislation, there was no reference to ghost guns in the county code”; and while lawmakers in Annapolis are “cautiously optimistic” that they can get their bill passed, “The county can’t afford to wait,” Albornoz said.

According to Montgomery County police Chief Marcus Jones, police are seeing more of the untraceable firearms.

Montgomery County police confiscated a total of 73 ghost guns in 2020, and they arrested 55 people and three juveniles who had ghost guns in their possession, Jones said.

“(Montgomery County police) … briefed us that these weapons have become popular among gangs,” Albornoz said.

Both Lopez and Albornoz said that there’s a racial equity element to their proposed legislations.

“We’re seeing the victims of these kinds of guns from communities of color,” Lopez said.

Albornoz said communities of color are “disproportionately affected” by gun violence and added, “The more we can do to get these tools of destruction out of the hands of people who nefariously plan on using them, the safer we will all be.”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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