Gun safety advocates hope to push ghost gun ban into law

A ghost gun ban sits on Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk while advocates make another push to get him to sign.

After years of trying, a bill that would ban ghost guns in Maryland has made it to the desk of the governor. But will he sign it? Advocates say they’re not sure, but they argue it’s a popular move that will become law one way or another.

During a press conference aimed at clearing the final hurdle for the bill banning ghost guns, Maryland State Sen. Susan Lee said the surge in ghost guns is a “dangerous, dangerous public safety threat.”

“They don’t have any serial numbers, they’re not traceable, and they don’t require any background checks,” Lee said, “and they’re used as a weapon of choice for violent criminals, domestic abusers, those who are banned by law from having guns and, most disturbingly now, they’re easily accessible by kids who are even more savvy at assembling them.”

A shooting at Magruder High School in Derwood earlier this year was also brought up by Melissa Ladd, who leads the Maryland chapter of the gun safety group Moms Demand Action. She lives near the school and has friends whose children attend Magruder.

“The impact of gun violence has only spiked in the pandemic,” Ladd said. “For me, the urgency of this issue has never felt so close to home.”

“This was the second instance of a child accessing a ghost gun right here in Montgomery County in just the past several months,” she added. “Our state now has a clear path to prohibiting these dangerous, untraceable weapons.”

So will the governor sign the bill?

Though Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh praised the passage of the ghost ban, State Sen. Susan Lee and Montgomery County Delegate Lesley Lopez questioned how the governor would respond.

Though Lee admitted she wasn’t sure how the governor felt about the issue, Lopez says, after informal talks with Hogan’s staff, her hunch is that a veto won’t happen.

“I pointed out to the governor’s staff that according to a Morning Consult poll that was conducted in late February, 59% of Republican voters actually support regulating privately made firearms in the same way that we would regulate any other type of firearm,” said Lopez. “I indicated this is an issue that polls very, very well nationally and that he should be giving it his full support.”

Both Lee and Lopez said the votes are there in their respective chambers to override a veto if it does happen though.

“We’re ready to go,” said Lopez. “The numbers are on our side both in terms of the votes in the chambers and in terms of how the issue polls nationally. The balls in the governor’s court but I think there’s a lot of reason to be hopeful.”

Ghost gun bills from the chambers have not always seen a unified approach, however, as Maryland’s House and Senate chambers approached passing the laws in very different ways.

Most notably, the final bill on Hogan’s desk says that guns won’t be prohibited until March of 2023 and clarified rules on serial numbers. Originally, the House Bill sponsored by Lopez banned sales starting on June 1 and banned having ghost guns on Jan. 1 of 2023.

Either way, Melissa Ladd says that this tireless advocacy presents a clear path to prohibiting these ghost guns.

“One thing is certain: ghost guns are an extreme threat to communities across Maryland, and it’s time for that to change,” she said.

Maryland sees over 700 gun deaths on average per year and over 1,700 people wounded due to gun violence in the state.

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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