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Justice

Maryland AG joins brief supporting new nationwide rule to curb ghost guns

President Joe Biden holds up a ghost gun kit during an event about gun violence in the White House Rose Garden in April. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images. 

Maryland is one of 20 states that signed on to a brief this week supporting the federal government’s efforts to regulate “ghost guns,” untraceable weapons that are often made at home and purchased without background checks.

The new federal rule to regulate ghost guns, issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, took effect last week. It requires federally licensed firearms dealers that sell or distribute the partially completed weapons to conduct background checks before selling or transferring those parts.

In recent years, law enforcement officials across the country have seen an exponential increase in the number of ghost guns on the streets.

Between 2016 and 2020, more than 23,000 firearms without serial numbers were reported to have been recovered by law enforcement from potential crime scenes, according to Justice Department officials. That tally included weapons connected to 325 homicides or attempted homicides.

The new rule clarifies that ghost gun assembly kits qualify as firearms and that the manufacturers of those kits must “become licensed and include serial numbers on the kits’ frame or receiver, and commercial sellers of these kits must become federally licensed and run background checks prior to a sale – just like they have to do with other commercially-made firearms,” the White House said in an April statement.

The brief filed this week in a case out of Texas challenging the new rule was spearheaded by D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D), Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) in Pennsylvania, and Attorney General Matt Platkin (D) in New Jersey. In addition to Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh (D), other states that signed on are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington and Wisconsin.

In Maryland, a law took effect in June that requires ghost guns in the state to be registered with the Maryland State Police and marked with a personal identification number. Violators of the law are subject to a penalty of up to two years of prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines.

Frosh sponsored the bill in Maryland and attended an April event at the White House when President Joe Biden announced the new rule.