With added urgency, dozens rally for Maryland ban on ‘ghost guns’

Dozens of gun control advocates from around Maryland gathered in Annapolis on Tuesday to push for a ban on so-called “ghost guns.”

It’s not the first time lawmakers have tried to pass such a bill, and it’s not the first time advocates have rallied for it. But now that a student from Rockville’s Magruder High is clinging to life after getting shot with one of those guns last week, there was new urgency among those who attended.

“For me the urgency of this issue has never felt so close to home,” said Melissa Ladd, who leads the Maryland chapter of the group Moms Demand Action. She also lives near Magruder High School.

“Now an entire school community has been forever impacted,” she said. “That includes my friends’ children and my former students.”

“Ghost guns” are usually sent in pieces and then assembled by the owner. They typically are untraceable if they’re used in a crime, and have been seized by police in greater numbers in recent years. Several prosecutors in Maryland are backing the proposed ban, and Ladd said the issue is now definitely on parents’ radar where she lives.

There was “a lot of shock, to start — a lot of anger,” she said. “The ghost gun issue is just being made aware to many people who were not aware of it previously.”

“Student do not deserve to fear homemade weapons, and we do not deserve to bear the weight of gun violence on our shoulders,” said Lily Freeman, a senior at Walt Whitman High School and the co-founder of that school’s chapter of Students Demand Action.

“We are intimately familiar with the corners of our classrooms from hiding during active shooter drills because we have grown up hearing the names Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook and Marjorie Stoneman Douglas and Santa Fe and Austin East and Oxford and too many others.

“Today I am thinking of the Magruder High School community,” added Freeman.

Referencing the lockdown that went on for hours after the shooting on Friday, she said some students “had to urinate in plastic bottles not knowing whether their classmate, their friend, was OK.”

She admitted the long list of shootings have started to numb her emotions on the issue.

“I have been made to feel that my emotions don’t matter,” said Freeman. “That students’ emotions don’t matter because we have seen such little change in our lives when it comes to gun violence.”

But when it comes to ghost guns, lawmakers who have tried repeatedly to ban them over the last few years feel like this year might be different.

“It’s time to do this. It’s time to do this, this year,” said Del. Luke Clippinger of Baltimore City. When he’s not working in the General Assembly, he works as a prosecutor in Anne Arundel County and chairs the House committee that will take up the bill. He promises a quick hearing and passage.

“A lot of the guns that we’re seeing now are these ghost guns, over and over again,” said Clippinger. “In some cases, they’re kids who have gotten them off the internet and that have put them together themselves and are terrorizing schools, terrorizing our neighborhoods.”

But while he told those who assembled for the rally that the bill would get passed this year, he also conceded the legislation won’t be nearly as effective unless federal regulations are also implemented.

“I know the Biden administration has been working on the regulations,” said Clippinger. “They have been working on getting that put together. That’s our next step.”

“We have to take the lead on the state level,” he added. “We have to demonstrate that we see that there’s an issue.”

Bills to ban ghost guns were officially getting filed by members of the state House and Senate Tuesday, and the oversight committees are expected to move them quickly.

When asked to comment on the latest effort for a ghost gun ban, a spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan, Mike Ricci, said “the governor will thoughtfully review any legislation that reaches his desk.”

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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