Friday (3/11) saw a lot of movement on the two bills that effectively prohibit privately making one's own firearms. HB425
was brought to the House floor on Thursday in a lengthy debate
that saw all attempts at amending the bill fail and the bill progressed with the same language as introduced. Today, HB425 passed the House 94-41
. Hats off to Delegates Saab
, and Buckel
for their vocal opposition and attempted amendments to the bill. Be sure to thank all the red votes in the below picture from the roll.
On Wednesday, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee held a voting session
on the cross file, SB387
. They amended the bill
substantially from its introduced form. Those amendments were brought to the floor today
and the bill was ordered to Third Reading without any discussion or other amendments offered. We expect it to pass. We wish to express our appreciation for the efforts of Senators Hough
, and Cassilly
, who pushed hard for amendments in Committee. Those amendments fixed some of the worst aspects of the bill and, importantly, mean that SB387 is different than HB425, which was passed "clean" by the House. As a result, there must be reconciliation (or one House to yield) before a bill can be sent to the Governor's desk. A lot can still happen. Sine Die
is fast approaching, with this Legislative Session having just 30 days remaining.
Is the amended Senate bill pretty? No. Does it still threaten possessors of unserialized firearms with prosecution and jail? Yes. Does it still prevent a person from making their own unserialized gun in the future? Yes. Is the amended version better than it was? We think so. Here are the amendments:
- The bill was amended to strike part of the original bill's definition of "unfinished frame or receiver" so that the bill no longer bans an article that is "marketed or sold" as something that could become a receiver once completed, assembled, or converted. The bill still bans an article that has reached a stage where it may "readily be completed, assembled, or converted" to a frame or receiver." Zero percent receivers are safe (for now);
- The bill newly adopts a mens rea requirement under which the possession offense does not apply unless the possessor "knew or reasonably should have known" that the gun was not imprinted with a serial number;
- The bill moves the effective date by which existing guns must be serialized from January 1, 2023, to March 1, 2023;
- The bill reduces the punishment for the unlawful possession of unserialized firearms and unfinished frames or receivers to two years instead of three. That means that a possession conviction no longer creates a lifetime disqualification from possessing firearms and modern ammunition;
- The amended bill increases the penalty for unlawful sales, offers of sale, and transfers of unserialized firearms and unfinished frames and receivers from three years to five years imprisonment;
- The bill still requires, for existing privately-made guns, that a FFL perform the serialization. While that part of the amended bill does not expressly require the FFL to adhere to federal serial number requirements for size and depth, those requirements are imposed on the FFL by the ATF's proposed Rule that is slated to come out by June of this year. Neither the bill nor the ATF Rule requires the FFL to participate;
- The bill, as amended, provides that the FFL who accepts an unserialized firearm must inscribe the owner's Zip Code, the owner's legal initials, and then unique numbers of their own making. That part of the bill is in direct conflict with the ATF's new Rule (when it becomes effective), which will require FFLs who accept unserialized firearms to use a serial number that "must begin with the licensee’s abbreviated Federal firearms license number as a prefix, which is the first three and last five digits, followed by a hyphen, and then followed by a number as a suffix;
- The bill, as amended, does not require the FFL to keep records concerning the serialization. In contrast, the ATF proposed Rule does impose that recordkeeping requirement;
- Any gun serialized under this bill must be registered with the Maryland State Police via the 77r form, which will allow the State Police to conduct a background check on the owner;
- Ironically, the bill, as amended, requires that its provisions be construed to be "consistent" with the ATF's new Rule, when it becomes effective. We have no idea how that will work given that the bill's serial number system and FFL requirements are different than those imposed by the ATF's proposed Rule. That conflict may make it impossible for FFLs to comply with the bill and may effectively ensure that no FFL will do the serialization required of existing owners by this bill.
MSI remains strongly opposed to SB387/HB425
, as the bills still impose stringent requirements upon gun owners at their expense, leave innocent people at risk for arrest and prosecution and criminalizes conduct that's always been lawful in Maryland and the United States. Both bills, as of this writing, would criminalize anyone who creates a firearm entirely on their own, even if they are not prohibited from possessing firearms. Not even Washington D.C. is this restrictive
. The only way to do a home-build would be to purchase pre-made serialized receivers from gun dealers. Aspiring gun manufacturers and hobbyists would have little option but to move elsewhere or give up the hobby entirely. Given the conflicting requirements, noted above, we doubt that FFLs will provide the necessary marking services. In other words, you will likely have little choice but to dispossess yourself of your existing non-serialized firearms. That's just plain wrong.
We thank EACH OF YOU who have contacted your lawmakers, testified before these committees, and otherwise stood up for your fellow Marylanders. This battle still isn't over and the bills still deserve opposition. We encourage you to reach out to your State representatives with mdelect.net
to respectfully express your concerns with the bills and urge their opposition.
We hope to announce better news on other affairs soon. Be sure to keep an eye on our ongoing litigation under the Legal tab on our website