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Find your representatives HERE
Committee Contacts can be found HERE
NEW FOR 2020 - All Committee Testimony Guidelines HERE
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Find the original letter HERE
April 2, 2020
To the Honorable Governor of Maryland,
My fellow legislators and I wish to thank you for your outstanding leadership during this unprecedented state of emergency. Marylanders are looking to you for guidance in this challenging time. Further guidance we think is needed, when assuring the safety of Maryland’s already vulnerable populations.
The ability of gun stores to remain open during this pandemic is worrisome for many Marylanders. Less than two weeks ago, a long line extended outside and around the corner of a gun store in Silver Spring. It is alarming to see Marylanders stockpiling weapons in such a state of emergency. Maryland has seen a surge in the purchase of guns and ammunition during this time of crisis.
Guns are not essential to solving this pandemic, nor will they make people safer. At this time, guns are only hurting vulnerable populations- victims of domestic violence and individuals already prone to suicide are most at risk. Marylanders are home, tensions are high, every Marylander is eager to save lives; however, gun stores remain open creating fear for our most vulnerable citizens.
Pursuant to Public Safety Article 14-303, you have the ability to close these stores. Should you choose not to close gun stores, in light of the recent directive from the federal Department of Homeland Security, we ask that you join our neighboring states and require an appointment during limited business hours, for individuals who choose to purchase guns at this time.
The increased sales of guns in recent weeks is disturbing. Marylanders need to be encouraged to fight this pandemic with hygiene and social distancing rather than with guns.
Here is the list of legislators (the signatories). If they are your representatives, please tell them (civilly) how you feel about their insistence that the Governor close all the gun stores.
Click on their name for the contact information.
Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary Senator Sarah Elfreth
Delegate Heather Bagnall Senator Brian Feldman
Delegate Darryl Barnes Senator Guy Guzzone
Delegate Ben Barnes Senator Shelly Hettleman
Delegate Erek Barron Senator Susan Lee
Delegate Sandy Bartlett Senator Jim Rosapepe
Delegate Lisa Belcastro Senator Will Smith
Delegate Ben Brooks Senator Jeff Waldstriecher
Delegate Jon Cardin Senator Mary Washington
Delegate Al Carr
Delegate Lorig Charkoudian
Delegate Charlotte Crutchfield
Delegate Dereck Davis
Delegate Diana Fennell
Delegate Kathleen Dumais
Delegate Eric Ebersole
Delegate Jessica Feldmark
Delegate Wanika Fisher
Delegate Terri Hill
Delegate Michael Jackson
Delegate Anne Kaiser
Delegate Arianna Kelly
Delegate Marc Korman
Delegate Carol Krimm
Delegate Robbyn Lewis
Delegate Jazz Lewis
Delegate Karen Lewis-Young
Delegate Brooke Lierman
Delegate Lesley Lopez
Delegate Sara Love
Delegate Maggie McIntosh
Delegate David Moon
Delegate Julie Palakovich-Carr
Delegate Edith Patterson
Delegate Josephine Peña-Melnyk
Delegate Shane Pendergrass
Delegate Kirill Reznik
Delegate Sheila Ruth
Delegate Emily Shetty
Delegate Jared Solomon
Delegate Jen Terrasa
Delegate Veronica Turner
Delegate Kris Valderrama
Delegate Geraldine Valentino-Smith
Delegate Stewart Vaughn
Delegate Alonzo Washington
Delegate Courtney Watson
Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins
Delegate Nicole Williams
It feels like almost an eternity ago now. Sine Die arrived three weeks early due to the threat of COVID-19, but that did not stop the General Assembly from pushing gun control. However, because of your actions just one piece of bad legislation,(HB4/SB208) (the bills are identical) are on the way to the Governor's desk and NOT the deluge of gun control bills that were introduced this session. We urge you to request a veto for HB4/SB208. You can contact the governor at 410-974-3901 or online at https://governor.maryland.gov/contact-the-governor/. Select "Legislation" as the message topic. MSI has formally requested Governor Hogan veto these bills and you can read that letter HERE.
We'd be remiss not mention the Delegates and Senators who worked hard this year in defense of your Second Amendment rights. Without slighting the efforts of all who helped during this last Session, we wish to laud in particular the efforts of Senators Hough, Ready and Cassilly, who sit on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, and the efforts of Minority Leader Delegate Kipke, who lead the opposition to these gun bills, as well as the tireless defense of the Second Amendment by Delegates Arikan, Cox, Grammer, McComas and Pippy, who are members of the House Judiciary Committee. We also respect Delegate Watson for his insistence on real facts and data, rather than emotional appeals, in Judiciary Committee hearings. We thank all those members of the General Assembly who at least purported to listen to views with which they may have disagreed.
Please take a moment to check on the votes cast by your representative at tinyurl.com/guns2020 (if you do not know who represents you, first go to mdelect.net to find them). Click on the Legislators tab and see a list of Senators and Delegates. Clicking on the name of the Senator or Delegate and a tab will open displaying their contact information and their votes on gun-related legislation.
If you look at an individual bill, you can also see how the committee members voted. Thank your representatives for their good actions and ask them (civilly) about the bad votes. Even if you have representatives who agreed with you, it's important to tell them that you appreciate their work! For those whose legislators that didn't vote in your favor a majority of the time, do praise them for any positive things they did, while appropriately holding them to account for their bad votes.
HB4/SB208 - "Public Safety - Rifles and Shotguns - Secondary Transactions"
This bill (the two bills are identical) criminalizes private sale or permanent transfers of long guns. As you may know, it's currently legal for a Maryland resident to sell privately a rifle or shotgun to another resident provided you have no reason to believe the buyer is prohibited, the arm is legal to possess and transfer within the State, and the sale is not for the purpose of doing business. After October 1st, this exchange would have to be done by a gun dealer who agrees to do transfers. The bill bans such private sales or permanent transfers unless such a sale or transfer is facilitated by a FFL, who conducts a NICS check on the purchaser and who may charge a "reasonable" fee for providing this service. A violation of this requirement to use a FFL for private sale or permanent transfer is punishable with imprisonment of 6 months and/or a $10,000 fine.
We were not able to stop this bill, but we were able to eliminate any such requirements for a temporary loan of a long gun. Specifically, the bill "does not include the temporary gratuitous exchange of a rifle or shotgun." For example, someone who needs to leave their long guns for safe keeping with a trusted person while they move or for any common and innocent reason may still do so. We also managed to reduce the penalty for a violation from 5 years imprisonment in the original bills to 6 months. That reduced penalty matters as a misdemeanor punishable by more than 2 yearsimprisonment is a disqualifying crime under federal and state law.
Of course, the bill does nothing to promote public safety. Handguns, which are substantially more regulated under Maryland law, are overwhelmingly used in more crimes than long guns. Indeed, you are much more likely to die from a knife attack than be murdered by a long gun. It is already a federal felony to knowingly provide a firearm to someone who is prohibited from possessing firearms. Hunters and law-abiding sportsmen have been trading and exchanging these ordinary long guns for generations. Despite these facts, the bill was passed by wide margins in both chambers of the legislature. We are requesting Governor Hogan veto these bills and you can read that letter HERE. You can also request a veto by calling 410-974-3901 or visiting the Governor's website HERE. Select "Legislation" as the Message Topic. Again, we urge you to do so.
HB1629 - "Office of the Attorney General – Firearm Crime, Injuries, Fatalities, and Crime Firearms – Study"
As the title states, this bill requires that the Office of the Attorney General conduct a study on firearms with information provided by police agencies across the state. Much of this work is already being conducted by the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention, so the bill is largely duplicative. We are leery of the bill as it may turn out to be just another biased effort to produce bad data so as to "justify" further efforts to restrict firearms owned by law-abiding Marylanders. That the bill assigns this task to the Office of the Attorney General simply confirms our suspicions, as Attorney General Frosh was the leading sponsor of the so-called Firearms Safety Act of 2013 while serving in the Senate as Chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. We hope we are wrong about this bill and will monitor developments as things get under way.
What Didn't Pass?
A LOT. Seriously... We could give you a Lord of the Rings-length tome explaining the too numerous to mention bills that didn't pass, but we will cover a few here.
Shall Issue Bills
The General Assembly refuses to recognize that the Second Amendment applies outside the home. Thus, pro-gun bills introduced by Delegates Cox and Hartman, and Senator Hough died in committee without so much as a vote. We look forward to a ruling by the Supreme Court s in one of a number of "may issue" cases that are on "hold" before the Court pending a decision in NYRPA v. NYC
On a related note, Senator Hough also introduced SB506 which would have allowed a permit applicant to take the required 16 hours of training AFTER the State Police have said they're otherwise eligible for a permit. The Senate passed this bill 46-0 (yes, unanimously), but the bill wasn't acted on at all in the House. Be sure to thank your senator for their vote on this bill!
Semi-Automatic Rifle and Pistol Bans
Introduced early in session, SB39 would have banned more variants of AR15 rifles. The bill never moved. Later, the monstrous HB1261 was introduced in the House but was withdrawn after considerable pushback. That bill would have compelled registration of currently possessed semi-auto rifles and pistols after 3 months and banned the new acquisition of the affected arms. The bill would have criminalized the mere possession of existing lawful firearms (including H-BAR rifles) and effectively banned the future acquisition of firearms used in competitions and home defense. We thank all those who voiced their opposition to this bill.
Maryland's gun dealers and you the consumer can breathe a sigh of relief for now. HB1257/SB816 would have imposed expensive and burdensome requirements upon all gun dealers in the state no matter how small. Under these bills, all dealers would have been required to conduct annual background checks and submit to fingerprinting. The bills would have required the electronic record-keeping subject to access by the State Police at any time and imposed a wide array of security requirements and mandates. It would have shuttered many businesses and those that remain would have little choice but to extend their new expenses to you. A big thank you to all the dealers who came to Annapolis on both days these bills were heard. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) also deserves a salute for their involvement in fighting back against these bills.
HB910/SB958 would have criminalized the mere possession of any unserialized firearm (including a receiver) made after 1968. This so-called "Ghost Gun" bill would have banned the mere possession of a block of aluminum as well as any distribution of computer code. Thankfully, neither of these bills were voted out of committee in either the House or the Senate. Hats off to those Delegates, Senators, and a representative of the States Attorney's Office who mentioned that they either have friends and family who make their own guns or do so themselves! This is the second straight year such legislation has been introduced. We expect this issue will come back again next session.
So-Called Safe Storage
SB 646 passed the Senate, but failed to pass the House in the rush to adjourn at early sine die. As it passed the Senate, this bill would have imposed far more stringent requirements on gun owners for the storage of their firearms, including a requirement that "a person may not store or leave a firearm in a location where the person knew or should have known that an unsupervised minor could gain access to the firearm." While the bill (as it passed the Senate) purported to have safe harbor provisions for the storage of unloaded firearms (and separate provisions for long guns for which the minor had parental permission), the bill effectively would have banned the storage of any loaded firearm, no matter how it was stored. That is because it is possible (the dictionary definition for "could") for a minor (defined as any person under 18) to gain access to any such firearm, even if it was stored in a two-ton safe. This bill violates Heller, which struck down as unconstitutional DC’s safe storage law that made "it impossible for citizens to use them [firearms] for the core lawful purpose of self-defense.” Needless to say, an unloaded firearm is useless for self-defense in the home. It is highly likely that this bill will be back next year. We congratulate Senators Cassilly, Hough, Ready and West in voting against this bill in Committee and on the floor.
March 23, 2020
Mr. Keiffer Jackson Mitchell, Jr.
Chief Legislative Officer
100 State Circle
Annapolis, MD 21401-1925
Re: Veto Request for HB 4 / SB 208
Dear Mr. Mitchell:
As you may know, Maryland Shall Issue is an all-volunteer, non-partisan organization dedicated to the preservation and advancement of gun owners’ rights in Maryland. The undersigned President of Maryland Shall Issue is an attorney and an active member of the Bar of the District of Columbia and the Bar of Maryland, having recently retired from the United States Department of Justice, after 33 years of practicing before the federal Courts of Appeals and the Supreme Court of the United States.
This letter is submitted on behalf of Maryland Shall Issue, its officers and Board and all its members, to request that Governor Hogan veto HB 4 / SB 208, which criminalizes private sales of ordinary long guns between law-abiding persons. These bills are misguided and, worse, will criminalize a long-standing activity that has no discernable effect on public safety. Indeed, it appears that the General Assembly would rather criminalize the law-abiding than enact the Governor’s crime bills that would address actual (and repeated) criminal behavior. We urge a veto.
1. The Premise Of These Bills Is False
The proffered premise of the bill is public safety. Specifically, the idea appears to be that requiring comprehensive background checks for private sales of long guns will reduce homicides and suicides by keeping guns out of the hands of prohibited persons or persons who may use them to commit suicide. That premise is false. In a recent study concerning California's comprehensive background check (“CBC”) and misdemeanor violence prohibition policies conducted by researchers from the University of California Davis School of Medicine, and by Daniel Webster of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (among others), the study concluded that California’s long standing comprehensive background check system “was not associated with a net change in the firearm homicide rate over the ensuing 10 years in California.” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1047279718306161. (Study at 1, Abstract). The researchers further concluded that the same was true for suicides, finding that “[t]he decrease in firearm suicides in California was similar to the decrease in nonfirearm suicides in that state” and that the “[r]esults were robust across multiple model specifications and methods.” (Id.). As the study also states, “a more rigorous time-series analysis found no effect on firearm suicide and homicide rates from repealing CBC policies in two states.”
This bill proposes an amendment to MD Code Public Safety § 5-146 to criminalize and increase the penalties for a failure to report a lost or stolen regulated firearm. Under current law, the owner of a regulated firearm has 72 hours to report the lost or theft of the firearm to a local law enforcement agency. A knowingly and willful failure to do so is punishable, on the first offense, as a civil offense with a fine not exceeding $500.00. On the second or subsequent offense, the failure is punishable as a criminal misdemeanor with imprisonment of 90 days and a fine not exceeding $500.00.
This bill would abolish the civil penalty for the first offense and make a failure to report on the first offense a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Second and subsequent violations are also criminal and punishable by imprisonment not exceeding 1 year and a fine of $2,000.
The Bill Criminalizes the Victim And Is Extreme In The Penalties Imposed
This bill is apparently motivated by a desire to prevent gun diversions and straw purchases by punishing a theft victim for a failure to report a lost or stolen regulated firearm. Those motivations are misguided. A Rand Corporation study published in 2018 found that there is no evidence or study that actually supports any reporting requirement. https://www.rand.org/research/gun-policy/analysis/lost-or-stolen-firearms.html. That Study is attached to this testimony. Specifically, the Study found that “[w]e found no qualifying studies showing that lost or stolen firearm reporting requirements increased any of the eight outcomes we investigated.” (Id. at 1). Indeed, the Study further states that “[w]e found no qualifying studies showing inconclusive evidence about lost or stolen firearm reporting requirements.” (Id.). In short, the supposed benefits of such reporting requirements are speculative at best.
This bill proposes an amendment to the Maryland Constitution to create a new State constitutional right of privacy in a new Article 48. The bill provides:
(A) THAT EACH INDIVIDUAL HAS A NATURAL, ESSENTIAL, AND INHERENT RIGHT TO PRIVACY THAT GUARANTEES FREEDOM FROM GOVERNMENT INTRUSION.
(B) THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY INCLUDES THE RIGHT OF AN INDIVIDUAL TO LIVE FREE FROM INTRUSION CAUSED BY OR DIRECTLY TRACEABLE TO THE UNAUTHORIZED COLLECTION OF DATA CONCERNING THE INDIVIDUAL BY ANOTHER.
(C) THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY DOES NOT PROHIBIT THE STATE FROM REGULATING THE SALE OR PURCHASE OF A FIREARM OR AMMUNITION.
(D) THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY MAY NOT BE INFRINGED WITHOUT A SHOWING OF A COMPELLING STATE INTEREST.
(E)(1) THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY MAY PROTECT THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY THROUGH APPROPRIATE LEGISLATION. (2)THE GOVERNOR MAY ENFORCE THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY THROUGH APPROPRIATE EXECUTIVE ACTION.
The Bill Is Unconstitutional In Its Carve-Out of Gun Owners From The Right of Privacy.
The “right to privacy” created by this bill would recognize the right of persons to a “right to privacy that guarantees freedom from government intrusion” and protect the right of individuals “to live free of intrusion” that would arise from the “unauthorized collection of data by another.” The scope of this new right of privacy is, of course, quite unclear. But, no matter unclear in other respects, one thing is clear: this right would not apply to gun owners as it provides that this right of privacy “does not prohibit the state from regulating the sale or purchase of a firearm or ammunition.” Thus, as long as the State can justify its governmental “intrusion” and “data collection” as a regulation of “the sale or purchase of a firearm or ammunition” the right to privacy created by the bill would not exist. Under this bill, gun owners, alone of all the citizens in Maryland, are carved out as a special class of citizens who are not protected by this new right of privacy. This carve-out is nothing short of outrageous. It is also blatantly unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment.
Under these bills (HB1104/SB1074), a law-abiding non-prohibited adult who loans a handgun to another law-abiding, non-prohibited adult must go through all the transfer requirements imposed by Section 5-124. That means that the transferee and the transferor must fill out a firearms application otherwise required by MD Code, Public Safety, § 5-118 (State Form 77-R) at a FFL or a State Police barracks, pay $10 and then wait 7 full days before completing the transfer. If the transferee to the loan were to return the handgun to the original transferor after the loan was over, the process would have to be repeated with still another Form 77-R and still another 7 day wait and still another check for $10. Under MD Code, Public Safety, § 5-144, a knowing “participation” in a “transfer” that violates Section 5-124 is punishable with up to 5 years in prison or a fine up to $10,000, “or both.” This bill overrules controlling precedent of the Maryland Court of Appeals, creates enormous legal traps for innocent gun owners while also bringing Section 5-124 into direct conflict with numerous provisions of existing Maryland firearms law. The bill is breathtaking in its scope.
The purpose of these bills is to provide for greatly enhanced penalties for the theft of a firearm. Under current law, theft of a firearm is treated just like the theft of any other piece of personal property. For example, under MD Code Criminal Law § 7-104(g)(2), “a person convicted of theft of property or services with a value of at least $100 but less than $1,500, is guilty of a misdemeanor and: (i) is subject to: 1. for a first conviction, imprisonment not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding $500 or both; and 2. for a second or subsequent conviction, imprisonment not exceeding 1 year or a fine not exceeding $500 or both.
All of these bills would change these penalties to a felony. SB 672 would apply only to theft of a handgun and punish a first offense as a felony, imposing a sentence of at least 2 years and not exceeding 5 years and/or a fine of $5,000. SB 674 and its cross-filed bill, HB 914, would apply to the theft of any firearm and would impose, on the first offense, imprisonment of at least 2 years and not exceeding 5 years and and/or a fine of $1,000. All the bills would impose minimum sentences of at 2 years on the first offense.
These Bills Are Necessary For the Public Safety:
Simply put, it is unbelievable that theft of a firearm is punishable so lightly under current law. The value of most firearms, including most handguns, fall into the range of between $100 and $1,500 and thus theft of such firearms is currently punished at most by 6 months in prison and/or a small fine. In reality, persons convicted of such a crime are very unlikely to see any jail time at all, as the Maryland Sentencing Guidelines classify this property crime as a Category VII offense (even on a second offense), which is the least serious offense listed in the Guidelines and one that can be punished by mere probation. See http://www.msccsp.org/Guidelines/Matrices.aspx#property. Yet, it should be obvious that stealing a firearm is a serious threat to the community and, as such, well deserving of actual punishment. See David J. Cherrington, Crime and Punishment: Does Punishment Work? at 4 (2007) (“Studies of punishment have shown that individuals who have observed others being punished change their behavior almost as much as those who were actually punished.”), available at https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1953&context=facpub.
The HQL Statute and the Bill:
These bills would amend Md Code Public Safety 5-117.1 (HQL statute). That Section prohibits law-abiding, responsible Maryland citizens from acquiring a handgun unless they have a Handgun Qualification License (“HQL”). Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety, § 5-117.1(c). Subsection (d) imposes training requirements, including a (i) a minimum of 4 hours of instruction by a qualified handgun instructor” consisting of “(ii) classroom instruction on: 1. State firearm law; 2. home firearm safety; 3. handgun mechanisms and operation; and (iii) a firearms orientation component that demonstrates the person’s safe operation and handling of a firearm.” In regulations, the Maryland State Police have added a new and additional live-fire training requirement, mandating that the HQL applicant “safely fires at least one round of live ammunition.” COMAR 29.03.01.29(C)(4). That live round requirement is not found in the statute.
In the interests of full disclosure, we note that the live-fire requirement, along with the rest of the HQL statute, is presently being challenged by MSI in federal court. See MSI v. Hogan, 2017 WL 3891705 (D. MD. 2017) (denying the State’s motion to dismiss). The district court, in a later decision, held that the plaintiffs lacked standing without reaching the merits of the constitutionality of the HQL statute. That decision is on appeal and is awaiting oral argument. See MSI v. Hogan, No. 19-1469 (4th Cir.). On the merits, we believe that it is highly likely that the Supreme Court will make use of a “text, history and tradition” test in reaching of the merits of NYSPRA v. NYC, No. 18-280, cert granted 139 S.Ct. 939 (2019). NYSPRA was argued on December 2, 2019, and numerous petitions for certiorari in Second Amendment cases are now being held by the Supreme Court pending a decision in NYSPRA. The HQL statute will likely fail under the text, history and tradition test that the NYC Court is likely to employ.
The Live-Fire Requirement Is Not Authorized By the HQL Statute and Is Discriminatory:
It is well-established in Maryland law that “[a]n agency’s authority extends only as far as the General Assembly prescribes.” Thanner Enters., LLC v. Balt. Cty., 995 A.2d 257, 263 (Md. 2010). Thus, an agency’s rule or regulations cannot “contradict the language or purpose of the statute.” Medstar Health v. Md. Health Care Comm’n, 827 A.2d 83, 96 (Md. 2003). Here, the Maryland State Police has grafted onto Section 5-117.1(d)(3)(iii)’s requirement of a “firearms orientation component” an entirely new “practice component” under which the applicant must safely fire “at least one round of live ammunition.” COMAR 29.03.01.29C(4). Although Section 5-117.1(n) provides that “[t]he Secretary may adopt regulations to carry out the provisions of this section,” it does not allow the Maryland State Police to add new “provisions,” such as adding “a practice component” so as to mandate live-fire.
This bill simply amends MD Code Public Safety § 5-111 and MD Code Public Safety § 5-309 to direct the Maryland State Police to mail a notice of renewal for State firearms licensees and to holders of a Maryland wear and carry permit at least 60 days prior to the expiration of these licenses. These amendments are imminently sensible. Allowing these licenses to expire inadvertently usually means that the licensee must start all over from scratch, as if there had never been any license at all. Other states provide notice to licensees, including carry permits issued to out of state residents.
3-D Printers: These bills contain three main parts. First, the bills would enact a new Section 4-602 of the Criminal Law article to the Maryland code in order to ban the use of a 3-D printer TO MANUFACTURE, CAUSE TO BE MANUFACTURED, ASSEMBLE, OR CONSTRUCT A FIREARM; OR DISTRIBUTE A COMPUTER PROGRAM DESIGNED FOR THE SPECIFIC PURPOSE OF MANUFACTURING, CAUSING TO BE MANUFACTURED, ASSEMBLING, OR CONSTRUCTING A FIREARM USING A 3–DIMENSIONAL PRINTER. This new section would also provide that A PERSON MAY NOT POSSESS, SELL, OFFER TO SELL, TRANSFER, PURCHASE, OR RECEIVE A FIREARM MANUFACTURED, ASSEMBLED, OR CONSTRUCTED IN VIOLATION OF SUBSECTION (C)(1) OF THIS SECTION [the ban on the use of a 3-D printer].
Covert guns: The bills would then enact a new Section 4-603 to ban “COVERT FIREARMS,” which are then listed in the bills. The bills would also ban “UNDETECTABLE FIREARMS,” which is defined by reference to an undefined “security exemplar,” or by reference to those firearms which cannot be detected by an x-ray machine “COMMONLY USED AT AIRPORTS.” The bills then provide that a person may not (1) MANUFACTURE, CAUSE TO BE MANUFACTURED, ASSEMBLE, OR CONSTRUCT A COVERT FIREARM OR AN UNDETECTABLE FIREARM; OR (2) POSSESS, SELL, OFFER TO SELL, TRANSFER, PURCHASE, OR RECEIVE A COVERT FIREARM OR AN UNDETECTABLE FIREARM.
Serial numbers: Next, the bills would enact new Section 4-604 to provide that a person may not:
(1) MANUFACTURE, CAUSE TO BE MANUFACTURED, ASSEMBLE, OR CONSTRUCT A FIREARM THAT IS NOT IMPRINTED WITH A SERIAL NUMBER ISSUED BY A FEDERALLY LICENSED FIREARMS MANUFACTURER OR FEDERALLY LICENSED FIREARMS IMPORTER IN COMPLIANCE WITH ALL FEDERAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS REGULATING THE MANUFACTURE AND IMPORT OF FIREARMS; OR
(2) POSSESS, SELL, OFFER TO SELL, TRANSFER, PURCHASE, OR RECEIVE:
(I) A FIREARM THAT IS NOT IMPRINTED WITH A SERIAL NUMBER ISSUED BY A FEDERALLY LICENSED FIREARMS MANUFACTURER OR FEDERALLY LICENSED FIREARMS IMPORTER IN COMPLIANCE WITH ALL FEDERAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS REGULATING THE MANUFACTURE AND IMPORT OF FIREARMS; OR
(II) AN OBJECT MARKETED OR ADVERTISED TO BE, OR THAT A REASONABLE PERSON WOULD UNDERSTAND TO BE, DESIGNED FOR THE PURPOSE OF BEING MANUFACTURED, ASSEMBLED, OR CONSTRUCTED INTO THE FRAME OR RECEIVER OF A FIREARM THAT IS NOT IMPRINTED WITH A SERIAL NUMBER ISSUED BY A FEDERALLY LICENSED FIREARMS MANUFACTURER OR FEDERALLY LICENSED FIREARMS IMPORTER IN COMPLIANCE WITH ALL FEDERAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS REGULATING THE MANUFACTURE AND IMPORT OF FIREARMS.
A. Homemade Guns Are Not Used In Crime And Existing Owners Are Law-Abiding Hobbyists, Not Criminals
These new provisions, if enacted, would severely criminalize a harmless activity that has been perfectly legal under federal and state law for the entire history of the United States, viz., the manufacture of homemade guns for personal use. Under federal law, a person may legally manufacture a firearm for his own personal use. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(a). However, “it is illegal to transfer such weapons in any way.” Defense Distributed v. United States, 838 F.3d 451, 454 (5th Cir. 2016). This manufacture “involves starting with an ‘80% lower receiver,’ which is simply an unfinished piece of metal that looks quite a bit like a lower receiver but is not legally considered one and may therefore be bought and sold freely. It requires additional milling and other work to turn into a functional lower receiver.” (Id).
SB816/HB1257 (http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Legislation/Details/sb0816?ys=2020RS) would impose extreme burdens and requirements upon Maryland gun dealers. Dealers are faced with complying or shutting down, seriously limiting Marylanders' ability to defend themselves. You can read our testimony in opposition to these bills here: https://www.marylandshallissue.org/jmain/legislation-tracker/211-2020-mdga-testimony-in-opposition-to-sb816-and-hb1257
We couldn't thank this young advocate any more for her fantastic testimony against these assaults on gun owners and businesses!
You can find all the bills for consideration before the Maryland General Assembly and our testimony at tinyurl.com/guns2020. Contact your reps and tell them not to criminalize Maryland gun owners! http://mdelect.net/
Maryland Shall Issue® is an all volunteer, non-partisan organization dedicated to the preservation and advancement of gun owners' rights in Maryland. It seeks to educate the community about the right of self-protection, the safe handling of firearms, and the responsibility that goes with carrying a firearm in public.
What you can expect in the House Judiciary Committee of the Maryland General Assembly
Firearms Safety Act of 2013 requires that a person complete a 16 hour training course, taught by a State certified instructor, “prior to application” for a carry permit. MD Code, Public Safety, § 5-306(a)(5). Senate Bill 506 would amend Section 5-306 to delete the requirement that the training be completed “prior to application.” It then provides that a person may file an initial application for a wear and carry permit without completing the training and directs that the State Police to issue a preliminary approval if the person is otherwise qualified for the permit. The person then has 120 days after receipt of the preliminary approval to furnish the State Police the certificate of training otherwise required by the regulations. A permit does not issue until that training certificate is provided. If no certificate of training is provided, the State Police are directed to revoke the preliminary approval and deny the permit application.
This bill makes sense. Indeed, this same bill passed the House of Delegates in 2017 as HB 1036 and that bill was reported out this Committee with a favorable report. The bill only failed to become law because time ran out at sine die. The bill is not materially different than the bill that has already passed the House and this Committee.
These Bills and Current Law: The New Burdens And Conflicts
This State imposes very strict regulation of firearms dealers, requiring that these dealer obtain a state-issued firearms license and submit to inspections on a regular basis by the Maryland State Police. See, e.g., MD Code Public Safety §5-110, §5-114, §5-115, §5-145. Additional regulatory burdens on dealers were imposed with the enactment of SB 281, the Firearms Safety Act of 2013, including amending MD Code Public Safety 5-145 to impose additional record keeping requirements. In addition to state regulation, all these dealers are also Federal Firearms Licensees (“FFLs”) and are thus heavily regulated by the ATF, a component of the U.S. Department of Justice. The ATF likewise imposes substantial record-keeping requirements, along with many other requirements concerning the conduct of business, on FFLs. See 18 U.S.C. § 923; 27 C.F.R. Part 478.
These bills would impose a vast array of new burdens on State licensed dealer. First, it would amend MD Code Public Safety 5-145 to require that the dealer keep ELECTRONIC records. The ATF does not permit electronic records. Rather FFL records must be kept in a “bound form” under a format specified in the regulations. See 27 C.F.R. §478.125(e). Any alternative format for records must receive special permission, requiring an application, and may not be employed by the FFL until approval is received. Id. at §478.125(h). Thus, this bill would effectively require the dealer to keep two sets of records, one in electronic format and one in paper format (as required by the ATF). Indeed, the bills effectively negate the provision in existing law (Section 5-145(a)(4)) that provides that “[r]ecords maintained under 18 U.S.C. § 923(g)(1)(a) may be used to satisfy the requirements of this section, if the Secretary is granted access to those records.”
The bills would also amend Section 5-145 requiring dealers to keep new records, including requiring the dealer to CREATE A VIDEO AND AUDIO RECORDING OF ALL RECEIPTS, SALES, AND OTHER DISPOSITIONS OF FIREARMS CONDUCTED AT THE DEALER’S BUSINESS. The dealer must also keep each such audio and video record FOR AT LEAST 1 YEAR AFTER THE RECEIPT, SALE, OR DISPOSITION and submit any such record or recording to the State Police upon demand. The dealer is required to supply such records not only to the State Police upon request, but also to a Federal agency and to any party in a civil suit simply upon releasing a discovery demand. This release of information to a federal agency is contradicted by 27 C.F.R. § 478.126, which sets forth the manner in which information is released to the ATF, and it authorizes submission only of information “required by this subpart.” That regulation precludes any alternative form of submission without special approval. The mandated release of information in a civil suit is breathtaking in scope and includes disposition information of the name, date of birth, address and driver’s license number of the non-licensee and a copy of Federal Form 4473. 26 C.F.R. §478.125(e).
The bills also amend Section 5-145 to impose a host of new security procedures and hardware, requiring the dealer to DEVELOP AND KEEP A WRITTEN STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE TO PROTECT INVENTORY FROM THEFT OR UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS. That procedure must include locks, exterior lighting, surveillance cameras and an alarm system. No such requirements are imposed upon FFLs by the federal regulations.
The bills also amend MD Code Public Safety 5-147 to impose new employment criteria on dealers. Under this provision, as amended, a dealer may not only not employ a prohibited person, but is also barred from employing any person FOR WHOM THE LICENSED DEALER HAS NOT OBTAINED A STATE AND NATIONAL CRIMINAL HISTORY RECORDS CHECK AS REQUIRED BY THIS SECTION. The bills go on to require the dealer to apply, by June 30 of EACH YEAR, TO THE CENTRAL REPOSITORY FOR A STATE AND NATIONAL CRIMINAL HISTORY RECORDS CHECK BY SUBMITTING TO THE CENTRAL REPOSITORY: TWO COMPLETE SET OF FINGERPRINTS OF THE EMPLOYEE and THE FEE for such checks. Finally, if the dealer should fail to comply with any of these new requirements (or any of the requirements of existing law), the dealer may be fined $1,000 for the first offense and imprisoned for 3 YEARS and a fine of $10,000 or BOTH for the second such offense.
Next, the bills create a new Section 5-148 to provide that A LICENSED DEALER SHALL AT ALL TIMES MAINTAIN LIABILITY INSURANCE FOR THE ACTS OF ANOTHER USING A FIREARM SOLD, RENTED, OR TRANSFERRED BY THE LICENSED DEALER IN THE AMOUNT OF AT LEAST $2,000,000. A violation of this provision is punishable by a civil penalty of $1,000 on first offense and 3 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for any subsequent offense. The bills also mandate, in new Section 5-149, that a dealer REPORT ANY THEFT OF A FIREARM FROM THE LICENSED DEALER’S PLACE OF BUSINESS TO A LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY, AS DEFINED IN § 3–201 OF THIS ARTICLE, IMMEDIATELY UPON DISCOVERING THE THEFT. Any failure to “immediately” report the theft is punishable by a $1,000 civil fine on the first offense and 3 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine for any second offense. Nowhere does the bill explain why dealers should be required to insure against the harm caused by the wrongful acts of another where the sale was otherwise fully legal. At common law, the negligent or unlawful acts of another are an intervening or superseding cause for which the dealer cannot be held liable. See Pittway Corp. v. Collins, 409 Md. 218, 248-49 (2009); Section 442 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts. Dealers are not guarantors against harm inflicted by otherwise lawful purchasers.
Finally, the bills create a new Section 5-150 which governs day-to-day business activities. Under this Section, the dealer must STORE EACH FIREARM IN A LOCKING DISPLAY CASE OR ANOTHER SECURE LOCATION THAT IS INACCESSIBLE TO CUSTOMERS and ENSURE THAT EACH FIREARM THAT IS DISPLAYED TO A CUSTOMER IS RENDERED INOPERABLE WITH A TRIGGER LOCK OR ANOTHER MECHANISM. This provision effectively kneecaps the dealer. Virtually every potential purchaser demands to work the action and pull the trigger of a firearm before making any purchase. Banning this practice will ensure that the buyer will go elsewhere. After business hours, the bills mandate that the dealer SHALL LOCK ALL 23 FIREARMS IN: (I) A VAULT; (II) A SAFE; OR (III) A REINFORCED DISPLAY CASE WITH SHATTERPROOF GLASS. This requirement just adds to the costs. The first violation by dealer is punishable by a $1,000 civil fine while any subsequent violation is punishable by 3 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.
These bills would amend Md Code Criminal Law § 4-104. Specifically, current law provides that “[a] person may not store or leave a loaded firearm in a location where the person knew or should have known that an unsupervised child would gain access to the firearm.” A child is defined for these purposes as a person “under the age of 16 years.” This bill would change the definition of a child to a person under the age of 18 years and modifies the prohibition to provide that a “person may not store or leave a loaded OR UNLOADED firearm in a location where the person knew or should have known that an unsupervised child COULD gain access to the firearm, UNLESS THE FIREARM IS LOCKED.” The bills will likewise repeal the exception in existing law that allows a child to have access to firearms if the child has a certificate of firearm and hunter safety issued under § 16 10–301.1 of the Natural Resources Article.
It also changes the punishment. Current law punishes a violation of this section as “a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to a fine not exceeding $1,000.” No prison time is imposed under current law. These bills would create three new layers of offense with increasing punishments. Merely leaving a LOADED or UNLOADED firearm in a “location where the person knew or should have known that an unsupervised MINOR COULD gain access to the firearm,” is punishable with 90 days imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. At the next level, leaving a LOADED or UNLOADED firearm in a “location where the person knew or should have known that an unsupervised MINOR COULD gain access to the firearm,” and the minor actually gains access is punishable with 2 years of imprisonment and a fine of $2,500. And at the final level, leaving a LOADED or UNLOADED firearm in a “location where the person knew or should have known that an unsupervised MINOR COULD gain access to the firearm,” and “THE FIREARM CAUSES HARM TO THE MINOR OR TO 3 ANOTHER PERSON” is punishable with 5 years of imprisonment and a fine of $5,000.
THE BILLS ARE DRACONIAN, IMPOSSIBLE TO COMPLY WITH AND PATENTLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL
Current Maryland Law:
This bill purports to address and impose new training requirements on persons who hold a “wear and carry permit” issued by the Maryland State Police pursuant to MD Code Public Safety § 5-306. Under MD Code Public Safety § 5-309(a), such “a permit expires on the last day of the holder's birth month following 2 years after the date the permit is issued.” Under Section 5-309(b), “a permit may be renewed for successive periods of 3 years each if, at the time of an application for renewal, the applicant possesses the qualifications for the issuance of a permit and pays the renewal fee stated in this subtitle.” Thus, the initial permit is good for two years and renewed permits are good for three years.
Current Maryland law also imposes among the most (if not the most) demanding and stringent training requirements of any state. Under Section 5-306(a)(5)(i), an applicant must first complete (prior to submitting any application for a permit) 16 hours of instruction given by a State Police certified qualified handgun instructor. Similarly, any person seeking to renew a carry permit must submit proof of “8 hours of instruction by a qualified handgun instructor.” (Id.). For both the initial application and the renewal, that instruction must include “a firearms qualification component that demonstrates the applicant's proficiency and use of the firearm.” Section 5-306(a)(5)(ii). Under this requirement, the State Police mandate a minimum score on a prescribed, timed course of live-fire at multiple distances from the target (3yds, 5yds, 7yds and 15yds). That score must be certified by the instructor with the actual score achieved specified in the certification by the instructor.
This bill would add a new Section 5-306.1 to the Public Safety Article to provide that:
A PERSON TO WHOM A PERMIT IS ISSUED OR RENEWED SHALL SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETE ON SEPARATE DAYS EACH CALENDAR YEAR:
(I) A COURSE ON SITUATIONAL AWARENESS APPROVED BY THE SECRETARY; AND
(II) A COURSE ON THE COMPETENT HANDLING OF A FIREARM APPROVED BY THE SECRETARY.
The bill would further amend MD Code Public Safety §5-310 to allow the State Police to revoke a permit on grounds that the holder of the permit failed to meet these new requirements imposed by this new Section.
These bills would create a new section 4-111 in the Criminal Law Article of the Maryland Code to provide that A PERSON MAY NOT SELL, OFFER TO SELL, OR DISPLAY AN IMITATION FIREARM, which the bills define to mean “A TOY, A DEVICE, OR AN OBJECT THAT SUBSTANTIALLY DUPLICATES OR CAN REASONABLY BE PERCEIVED TO BE A FIREARM.” The bills apply only to the City of Baltimore.
The Bills Are Preempted By Federal Law:
The bills effectively ban the sale of imitation guns the sale of which are expressly protected by federal law (15 U.S.C. § 5001), and federal regulations (15 C.F.R. § 272.2, et seq.). That federal law establishes a system by which imitation firearms are marked and preempts any State regulation of sales, providing in 15 U.S.C. § 5001(g):
The provisions of this section shall supersede any provision of State or local laws or ordinances which provide for markings or identification inconsistent with provisions of this section provided that no State shall—
(i) prohibit the sale or manufacture of any look-alike, nonfiring, collector replica of an antique firearm developed prior to 1898, or
(ii) prohibit the sale (other than prohibiting the sale to minors) of traditional B-B, paint ball, or pellet-firing air guns that expel a projectile through the force of air pressure.
Statutory Context and the Bill:
A “dangerous weapon” is defined by MD Code, Criminal Law, § 4-101 to include a wide assortments of weapons, but that list excludes “a penknife without a switchblade.” A “penknife” is simply a folding knife, like a Swiss Army knife. See Bacon v. State, 322 Md. 140 (1991). Persons excluded from 4-101’s ban include law enforcement officers, persons with a Maryland wear and carry permit to carry a handgun and “a person who carries the weapon as a reasonable precaution against apprehended danger.”
However, MD Code Criminal law, 4-102(b), provides that a “person may not carry or possess a firearm, knife, or deadly weapon of any kind on public school property.” Because this provision separately bans knives, not even a folding penknife can be possessed on public school property. Section 4-102 makes an exception for law enforcement officers who are on duty or who are a parent, guardian, or visitor of a child at the school. It also makes an exception for “a person hired by a county board of education specifically for the purpose of guarding public school property.” Unlike Section 4-101, Section 4-102 makes no exception for persons with a Maryland wear and carry permit. For mere possession of every weapon besides a handgun, a violation of Section 4-102 is punishable by “imprisonment not exceeding 3 years or a fine not exceeding $1,000 or both.” Possession of a handgun on public school property is punished more severely. Under MD Code Criminal Law, 4-203(c)(2)(i), possession of a handgun on public school property “is subject to imprisonment for not less than 30 days and not exceeding 3 years or a fine of not less than $250 and not exceeding $2,500 or both.”
This bill would expand Section 4-102 to include not only public school property but also include “NONPUBLIC” school property. It would exclude from its coverage “a person hired by A NONPUBLIC SCHOOL SPECIFICALLY FOR THE PURPOSE OF GUARDING NONPUBLIC SCHOOL PROPERTY. Because wear and carry permit holders are not exempt under 4-203 for public schools, such permits holders would likewise be banned from private school property under this bill.
The bill (as well as its cross-filed bill HB4) would add a wholly new set of restrictions on temporary and permanent long gun “transfers” which would be defined in an extremely broad manner. The bills would severely criminalize any non-compliance with its many and highly complex new restrictions. The bills would effectively eviscerate loans of guns between law-abiding individuals, including fellow hunters and effectively destroy the market value of countless gun collections, as their sales would be all but banned. The bills mandate the use background checks by Federal Firearms Licensees (“FFLs”) for private loans of long guns in a manner that would actually violate federal law. The bills would create nightmarish uncertainty in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Finally, the bills ignore the well-documented reality that these sorts are long guns are almost never used in crime. Indeed, FBI statistics demonstrate that a person far more likely to be killed by a knife or hands or feet than a long gun. There is simply no public safety purpose that would be served by these bills.