Maryland’s New “Ghost Gun” Law Explained
As of June 1, 2022, a person who is in possession of a “non-serialized” firearm in Maryland must have that firearm marked with a personal ID number as required by the Public Safety Article of the Maryland Annotated Code, Section 5-703. The person who was in possession of this firearm (prior to June 1, 2022) will have until March 1, 2023, to act in compliance with this new law. Individuals who obtain their firearm by inheritance (after June 1, 2022) will have only 30 days to have their firearm marked with a personal ID number. These personal ID numbers can be provided by a Federal Firearm Licensee (FFL) via what is referred to as “marking services” which must be in compliance with all Federal laws and regulations. Once the personal ID number is marked on the firearm, it must be uploaded to the Maryland State Police licensing portal.
The new Maryland law applies not only to fully finished firearms, but to “unfinished frame(s) and receiver(s) as well. An unfinished frame or receiver is defined as “a forged, cast, printed, extruded, or machined body or similar article that has reached a stage in manufacture where it may readily be completed, assembled, or converted to be used as the frame or receiver of a functional firearm”.
Since June 1, 2022, it has become illegal to purchase, receive, sell, offer to sell, or transfer a firearm or an unfinished frame or received until “the serialization of unfinished frames or receivers by a federally licensed manufacturer or importer in compliance with all federal laws and regulations applicable to the manufacture and import of firearms” has taken place.
Violators of Maryland’s new “ghost gun” law are subject to a penalty of up to two years imprisonment and/or up to $10,000 in fines.
The purpose of this new law is to prohibit individuals from ordering “ghost gun” kits online or building them with 3D printers, thereby making such guns untraceable. In the past, persons who would otherwise be prohibited from purchasing a firearm from a gun shop/gun dealer, have been able to order the (“unserialized”) parts to a gun and then assemble it themselves, or, if they own a 3D printer, produce their own gun. This has been a troublesome workaround for law enforcement not only to keep track of who has firearms, but who is transferring them. The new law attempts to close loopholes to unauthorized ownership of firearms by otherwise disqualified persons by making it not only a crime to sell these guns (which affects the manufacturers of these gun kits) but makes it an incarcerable crime to receive these gun kits.
It remains to be seen how effective enforcement of this new law will be; regulating sales of items on the internet, especially the dark web, can be challenging for law enforcement. Only time will tell as to the effectiveness of this new statute as it relates to online purchases. However, since the enactment of the new “ghost gun” law, Maryland’s largest jurisdiction, Baltimore City has targeted the largest manufacturer of ghost gun kits and a gun shop just outside the city that sell the kits, in an effort to stop them at their source. The company, Polymer80, is believed to be responsible for 91% of the ghost guns on the street in Baltimore, many of which are sold at a gun shop located only 7 miles from the Baltimore City line in Hanover, Maryland. Prior to the enactment of the new law, gun kits were not considered firearms, so manufacturers such as Polymer and gun shops named in the City lawsuit have been able to sell parts of a firearm to customers without background checks. The City’s lawsuit, which appears to have been emboldened by the new statewide legislation seeks financial damages from the gun shop and Polymer 80. It remains to be seen if this new law will be enforced and criminal penalties sought against the gun store owner and its employees, as they operate in Maryland.
Regardless of whether jurisdictions in Maryland seek to enforce the provisions of this new law against business owners (which is likely), there does not appear to be any question that individuals who are found to be in possession of a “ghost gun” will, in addition to any other charges that they may face (including other gun charges under both Maryland Criminal Law Article 4-203 and Public Safety Article 5-133) will also be charged under the new “ghost gun” statute, adding an additional criminal charge and a potential for 2 additional years in prison.
If you or someone you know is charged with any gun charge, including possession of a ghost gun, call Craig M. Kadish & Associates, LLC. We have been handling exclusively criminal matters for over 30 years and are here to help.