The Maryland General Assembly will consider legislation next year to ban access to 3D-printed guns after the federal government gave a Texas-based company the OK to distribute weapon blueprints.
Majority Leader Kathleen Dumais, D-Montgomery County, is drafting legislation that would ban the possession of 3D-printed guns and “ghost” guns, firearms that don’t have serial numbers.
The specifics of the ban and punishment aren’t known at this time as Dumais is still working on the bill.
Legislating the internet can’t be done, so at least Maryland can ban possession of the guns so police can confiscate them upon discovery, Dumais said.
“I haven’t heard a good reason on why people need to own 3D-printed guns and ghost guns,” Dumais said.
The 3D-printed guns have been controversial as they are made of plastic and may not be detectable by magnetometers. Federal law forbids making, selling or possessing undetectable firearms.
The state just spent millions of dollars to outfit schools with metal detectors and other safety measures, and these guns would bypass all that work, said House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Annapolis.
Since the federal government isn’t stopping these weapons, the states have to step up, he said.
“You can’t proliferate these types of guns,” Busch said. “It just makes no sense whatsoever to have these kinds of weapons readily available.” He said Dumais’ legislation would have support from his office.
In a statement Friday, Gov. Larry Hogan’s office said Hogan opposes the 3D-printed guns.
“The governor believes that allowing people to use 3-D printing technology to manufacture untraceable guns in their homes poses serious safety and national security risks,” said Amelia Chasse Alcivar, a Hogan spokeswoman.
Busch advocated banning the 3D-printed guns in a column he submitted to The Capital, scheduled for print publication Sunday. Busch was responding to a call to action from the Capital Gazette Editorial Board after a gunman killed five staff members on June 28. The suspected shooter used a shotgun he bought legally, police said.
The push to ban 3D-printed guns follows a year in which Maryland banned the sale of bump stocks and passed the “red flag” law. Bump stocks are tools that increase the fire rate of weapons.
The red flag law allows judges to order gun owners relinquish their firearms temporarily if the owner is found to be a threat to themselves or others.
Busch wrote in his column that he was unsure of how legilsators can do more to address mass shootings in a state with strong gun laws and good mental health resources. But he said the 3D-printed gun technology is something they can address now.
The federal government was set to allow a Texas-based company, Defense Distributed, to release 3D gun blueprints for a plastic weapon called the Liberator. The founder of the company, Cody Wilson, has argued releasing the blueprints is protected under the First Amendment because the company isn’t actually manufacturing the weapon.
Wilson’s blueprints were released in 2013 and were downloaded 100,000. Back then the issue was controversial as users on the company’s website argued about the blueprints. One person applauded the company for supporting the Second Amendment, while others accused the company of giving guns to terrorists.
State Department officials stopped the distribution of the blueprints, arguing the downloads violated federal export laws since some were saved by people outside the U.S.
The dispute lasted years until Wilson and the government settled in June. This paved the way for Wilson to again release the blueprints, but eight Democratic attorneys general, including Maryland’s Brian Frosh, sued the federal government to block the blueprints.
A federal judge in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order July 31 that blocked the release of the blueprints, which were slated to go back online Aug. 1.
Frosh said he supports efforts to ban 3D-printed and ghost guns.
These weapons can only be used a few times and are not traceable because they lack serial numbers, so they make good weapons for criminals and poor tools for self-defense, he said.
“If you want to a gun for self-defense purposes, you want one that shoots straight and operable and can fire more than a couple of rounds,” Frosh said. “It is not clear that many of these guns can.”
The Associated Press and The Baltimore Sun contributed to this story.