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House Republicans urge Gov. Moore to veto gun industry measure

Photo by Aleksander George/Getty Images.

With Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) scheduled to sign more than 200 bills into law Thursday, the state’s leader continues to receive letters and verbal pleas to veto certain legislation the General Assembly approved this year.

The House Republican Caucus has asked Moore to veto House Bill 947 – Gun Industry Accountability Act – which would give the Office of the Attorney General and the 24 local state’s attorneys authority to sue firearms manufacturers and gun dealers. The bill isn’t listed as part of Thursday’s bill signing ceremony.

The legislation sponsored by Del. N. Scott Phillips (D-Baltimore) would permit those legal officers to seek “injunctive relief, restitution, compensatory and punitive damages, reasonable attorney’s fees and costs and any other appropriate relief.”

“The volume of firearm-related crimes concerns every Marylander and every member of our Caucus,” House Minority Leader Jason Buckel (R-Allegany) and House Minority Whip Jesse T. Pippy (R-Frederick) wrote in a letter Friday to the governor. “This bill does nothing to address these crimes. Instead, this bill shifts the accountability away from those who commit them and will do nothing to protect our citizens.”

In their letter the lawmakers said the bill holds firearms sellers and manufacturers liable when individuals use their products illegally.

“We all want to address the bad actors, but this reasoning fails to recognize the fact that it is the end user committing the crime, not the manufacturer or retailer,” Buckel and Pippy wrote. “This bill is the latest in a series of actions by the Maryland General Assembly to unreasonably restrict the 2nd Amendment rights of its citizens.”

According to the bill, a company in the firearm industry would be required to implement “reasonable controls on the sale, manufacture, distribution, importation, marketing, possession and use of” firearm related products.

Reasonable controls, defined in the bill, are policies such as preventing the sale and distribution of a product to a straw purchaser, a firearm trafficker, a person whom the member of a firearm industry has reasonable cause “to believe intends to use the firearm-related product to commit a crime or to cause harm.”

Under current law a firearms dealer or other person is prohibited from selling, renting, or transferring a regulated firearm if it is known or there is “reasonable cause to believe” that a person is younger than 21 years old, convicted of a conspiracy to commit a felony or a participant in a straw purchase, among other factors.

Eight other states have enacted similar legislation in the last two years.

If the governor signs the bill or it becomes law without his signature, it would go into effect June 1.

Meanwhile, the gun rights group Maryland Shall Issue continues to assess whether to file a legal challenge.

Mark Pennak, president of the organization, said in an interview Tuesday the legislation is both unconstitutional and vague.

“What this legislation does is basically drive industry members out of Maryland, and thus make it more difficult to acquire firearms,” he said. “[Dealers] could be complying with every single law, and Maryland has lots of gun control laws, and still be held to punitive damages under this statute for something that the attorney general [and local state’s attorneys] think is unreasonable without telling them ahead of time to what is unreasonable. It’s going to be challenged one way or another.”


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House Republicans urge Gov. Moore to veto gun industry measure