A Growing Threat to Public Safety – Conduit Street


For the 2022 session of the Maryland General Assembly (MGA), expect the focus to be on privately-made firearms, also known as “phantom weapons.”

Photograph of an untraceable “ghost gun”, courtesy of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf

Generally speaking, ghost guns are constructed in one of two ways: 1. receiving parts in the mail; or 2. printing parts using a 3D printer. Neither federal nor state law requires the registration of small arms parts, including the frame or receiver of a firearm. With no ability to track the distribution of parts and phantom weapon kits, sales have proliferated across the country. The Maryland Department of Legislative Services (DLS) describes the magnitude of these sales in a issue paper built for the MGA 2022 session:

According to the US Department of Justice, between 2016 and 2020, more than 23,000 phantom weapons were recovered by law enforcement at potential crime scenes, including 325 in homicides and attempted homicides. . In November 2020, the Baltimore Sun reported that between 2016 and 2019, more than 12,000 construction kits were shipped to Maryland, with total kit sales exceeding $ 1.0 million. The Baltimore Sun further reported that the Baltimore City Police Department recovered 126 privately manufactured firearms in 2020, up from 29 recovered in 2019, and that nearly a quarter of those recovered firearms were from people under the age of 21.

During the MGA 2021 session, Senator Susan C. Lee (District 16, Montgomery County) presented SB 624, entitled “Public Safety – Untraceable and Undetectable Firearms”. The bill would have addressed the ghost gun problem by including frames and receivers in the definition of a regulated firearm and requiring a serial number on any frame or receiver.

Likewise, according to DLS, “[e]ight states (California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Washington) and the District of Columbia “have enacted similar laws, the latter in effect banning” the possession of unfinished frames and receivers and d guns not found. “At the federal level, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has proposed a regulation providing for “new statutory definitions of ‘firearm frame or casing’ and ‘frame or casing'” and “changes to the ATF regulations on marking and record keeping that are necessary to implement these new or modified definitions ”.

All in all, expect a bill similar to Senator Lee’s SB 624 to be introduced for the 2022 MGA session.

Read the full article on DLS.


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