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Maryland Law Update: Registering “Ghost Guns”

A new law made its way to the Maryland state books in 2022. As of June 1st, all “ghost guns” must be registered. What is a “ghost gun”? These guns are, essentially, untraceable firearms with no serial number, that are frequently purchased online and assembled at home. Now, after passing the Maryland General Assembly, the law requires that individuals in possession of such firearms must have their guns marked with a personal identification number, within 30-days of the weapon’s acquisition. In addition, “ghost guns” must now be registered with the state police, and individuals are prohibited from purchasing, receiving, selling, offering to sell on behalf of another, or transferring an “unfinished frame or receiver” of a firearm unless it has been imprinted with this specific information. 

How Did this Law Develop—Are “Ghost Guns” a Significant Problem?

In a word, yes. This law came to be primarily due to a substantial rise in crimes committed using “ghost guns” and the development of a big—and growing—market for “ghost guns.” Obtaining a gun like this, enables individuals to avoid the regular process that is involved in purchasing a firearm, including background checks, and fulfilling other requirements. Those who would typically be prohibited from purchasing a firearm could still access “build your own” kits, potentially putting those with criminal records in possession of guns. Additionally, law enforcement is unable to trace unmarked “ghost guns” to specific owners as they are not stamped with serial numbers, causing them to become the guns of choice for crimes, and making it even more challenging to solve gun crimes. 

“Ghost gun” violence is not a new problem, but it is certainly becoming more prevalent. Earlier this year, a 17-year-old student in Montgomery County shot at a15-year-old student using a ghost gun. Last year, the Baltimore Police Department recovered 294 “ghost guns”, illustrating just how significant a problem “ghost guns” have become. Passing the “ghost gun” legislation protects Marylanders from gun violence via untraceable weapons. 

What are the Penalties Associated with this New Law? 

The law comes with relatively stiff penalties. Possession of an unregistered “ghost gun” is considered a misdemeanor, and the maximum penalty for violating these new provisions is imprisonment for up to two years and/or a fine of up to $10,000. 

While the law went into effect in June 2022, individuals who are in possession of “ghost guns” will have until March 2023 to register their firearm and obtain a serial number for it. This is expected to allow enough time for those with a previously owned “ghost gun” to register it with the police and obtain and apply a serial number.

As with any law, this will not put a stop to gun violence. However, it is a step in the direction of minimizing it and moving forward with better identification of guns and criminal gun owners. If you are the owner of a “ghost gun” and have questions, or are facing existing gun charges, we urge you to contact our office immediately to discuss how to handle the situation with an expert attorney.