At the vigil to end gun violence last week, the Rev. Mike Morse, of Stand Up for Racial Justice, called on local state and national leaders to create actions on gun violence. Since I was specifically named, I would like to take this opportunity to review actions taken by the Maryland General Assembly.
The Maryland General Assembly is a national leader on gun safety legislation and is responsible for passing some of the strongest laws in the country. In 2013, Maryland passed the Firearms Safety Act, which prohibited assault-style weapons, high-capacity magazines, cop killer bullets, and established the handgun-qualifying license.
Since then, we have continued to pass legislation to improve public safety and keep firearms out of the hands of those who should not have them. Below is a recap of recent legislation passed by at least one chamber. We will continue to urge the federal government to pass sweeping laws to address the gun violence crisis in America. States that continue refusing to address this issue undermine what we have accomplished.
BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR PRIVATE LONG GUN SALES — This legislation, which passed in the House only, would close a loophole in the background check process for long gun (rifle and shotgun) transfers by requiring a licensed firearms dealer to facilitate a private long gun sale. The bill would result in tens of thousands of additional background checks conducted and ensure each and every transaction is properly vetted. The bill does not include transfers between immediate family members, antique firearm collectors, or hunters as long as the owner of the firearm is present. This bill passed the House with 90 votes, but could not be resolved in conference committee on Sine Die.
BAN 3D GUNS — Passed by only the House at this point, this bill bans the creation, sale, or possession of 3D printed guns. 3D guns circumvent every aspect of Maryland’s firearm laws, including background checks, license requirements, and are entirely untraceable. As technology advances, it is crucial that we update our laws to ensure public safety. The bill also requires the state police to create a plan for a system to register untraceable "ghost guns" that can be sold in kits of loose parts and do not have a serial number. Unfortunately, the Senate did not vote on the bill.
ELIMINATE HANDGUN REVIEW BOARD — Since the start of his administration, Gov. Hogan’s political appointees have overturned state police decisions and issued concealed carry permits at a record rate. This legislation would disband the Handgun Review Board, and send appeals of rejected concealed carry permits to the Office of Administrative Hearings. We trust in the state police’s ability to determine who should be allowed to wear and carry a handgun — not a board of political appointees. The governor vetoed this legislation.
BUMP STOCK BAN — After the 2017 Las Vegas shooting in which the shooter used a bump stock to commit the most deadly mass shooting in U.S. history, Maryland passed a ban on bump stocks. The intent of a bump stock is to make a semi-automatic firearm function like an automatic weapon, which circumvented our laws and regulations. This legislation banned rapid-fire trigger activators — any kind of device or part that accelerates the rate of fire of a gun —that include bump stocks and any similar devices. The bill applies to all firearms, regulated and unregulated.
RED FLAG LAW — This legislation allows law enforcement to confiscate firearms from a person who a judge considers a serious danger to themselves or others. The process would be held to the same standard as an extreme risk protective order hearing and the individuals who can make a report are restricted to doctors, law enforcement, or family members. In just the first three months after this legislation took effect, over 300 complaints were referred to law enforcement resulting in firearms seized from 148 individuals.
TAKING GUNS FROM DOMESTIC OFFENDERS — This legislation allows law enforcement to execute a search warrant to remove any guns from a domestic violence offender’s home if a court believes they failed to turn in their guns upon conviction. This is an important step towards preventing guns from falling through the cracks and ensuring that violent ex-convicts are not armed. This bipartisan legislation passed the House with a vote of 135-4.
GUN-FREE HIGHER EDUCATION ZONE — This legislation, which has only been passed in the House (in 2017 and 2018), would codify existing university practices by prohibiting the possession of firearms on college campuses. The legislation exempts law enforcement, security guards, and educational shooting events approved by the school.
I am confident that we will continue to work with our partners in the Senate, as well as our colleagues at the federal level, to ensure that we persist in our efforts to enact responsible gun safety policies.