HB638 Public Safety - Untraceable and Undetectable Firearms

Bill Sponsor: Delegate Lesley Lopez

Committee: Judiciary

Organization Submitting:   Lower Shore Progressive Caucus

Person Submitting:  Dr. Nicole Hollywood, LSPC   


I am submitting this testimony in favor of HB638 on behalf of the Lower Shore Progressive Caucus. The Caucus is a political and activist organization on the Eastern Shore, unaffiliated with any political party, committed to empowering working people by building a Progressive movement on the Lower Eastern Shore. 

State and federal gun laws traditionally apply to fully assembled firearms and the part of the gun that includes the firing mechanism, also known as the receiver. These laws typically do not apply to “unfinished” frames or receivers, also known as “80% receivers”. These nearly completed firearms are known as ghost guns. A ghost gun is, simply put, a self-assembled firearm made from either 3D printed components or building blocks easily acquired from the World Wide Web or from individuals in the form of DIY gun kits. These building blocks are readily available and unregulated and are not produced by a federally licensed manufacturer or importer.

The mounting threat of ghost guns is the most eminent gun safety problem in the United States. Unregulated, not serialized, and often undetectable by a magnetometer, ghost guns present an easy means for prohibited purchasers to evade gun laws and access firearms.

The threat of ghost guns is rising rapidly. By early 2020, reports indicated that more than 40% of guns involved in criminal activity that were recovered by the ATF were ghost guns and those number are only increasing. For example, in Baltimore, the number of ghost guns retrieved by police tripled from 2019 to 2020. 

When guns are recovered from a crime scene the serial number is used to engage in tracing. During this process a firearm is traced through the chain of custody to the point of its first retail sale. According to the National Tracing Center of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (2019) 450,000 trace requests were processed in 2019 and more than seven million traces have been conducted since 1988. Ghost guns however, are untraceable and because they are untraceable they are now the firearms of choice for organized gangs.

The Lower Shore Progressive Caucus recognizes the dangers posed by ghost guns. HB638 would alter the definition of a regulated firearm to include a certain unfinished frame or receiver, authorize a person to continue to possess these firearms after January 2022 provided they are marked with a unique serial number, prohibit a person from acquiring new ghost guns after January 2022, and establish penalties for violation.

The Lower Shore Progressive Caucus supports this bill and recommends a FAVORABLE report in committee.

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