Over the weekend, Senate leadership announced the 2020 legislative session in Maryland will adjourn Sine Die this Wednesday, significantly shortening the timeline for lawmakers to pass gun safety legislation. Last week, the Senate passed SB 208 and HB 4, legislation that would require a background check on all sales and transfers of rifles and shotguns—but with a series of amendments that significantly weakened the bill and reinforced existing problems in Maryland’s background check laws. In the next few days, Maryland lawmakers should reject these amendments and pass the bills as filed to keep Maryland families safe.
The legislation, as pre-filed by Del.Vanessa Atterbeary, would have created a comprehensive background check requirement, ensuring checks for all rifle and shotgun transfers—whether permanent or temporary, with or without consideration. The existing loophole in Maryland law makes it easy for people who are legally prohibited from having guns to obtain these deadly weapons, with no background check and no questions asked, through sales arranged online or at gun shows. The mass shooting at the Capital Gazette newsroom is proof that rifles and shotguns in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them threaten the safety of Maryland communities.
The Senate committee amendments to the bill replicate a loophole in Maryland’s existing handgun background check law (a problem initially created by the Maryland Court of Appeals decision in Chow v. State) that dangerously undermine the enforcement and implementation of that law. The amendments exempt loans of rifles and shotguns from the background check requirement—even though a loaned rifle or shotgun can cause just as much damage. As we’ve already seen with handguns, these amendments will make it harder to prosecute those who violate the background check law by illegally selling or purchasing firearms.
While it’s a sign of progress to see legislation requiring background checks on rifle and shotguns sales in Maryland advance farther than ever before, there’s no excuse for Senate lawmakers to weaken the bill and repeat mistakes of past sessions by letting the clock run out.
If you have any questions about the legislation and the amendments, or would like to hear from a policy expert or volunteer with Maryland Moms Demand Action, please don’t hesitate to reach out.