2020 Maryland General Assembly Recap

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.

What Passed?
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 HEREYou 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.

Dealers Requirements
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.

Homemade Guns
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.

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