BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison joined Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and officials from across the state on Thursday to push for a ban on homemade firearms known as “ghost guns.”

Calling the level of gun violence in the state “unacceptably high,” Frosh said the privately made guns, which do not have serial numbers, are not legally classified as regular firearms, allowing buyers to skirt background checks.

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“As they specifically advertise, in an hour, or even less, you can have a functional handgun,” the attorney general said of online “ghost gun” kits. “We can no longer tolerate the fiction that these components should not be defined as regulated firearms.”

A forthcoming bill in the Maryland General Assembly will ban the sale, receipt and transfer of unfinished frames and receivers that do not have a serial number by June 1. Possession of guns without a serial number will become illegal at the start of 2023. Owners of such firearms will have the chance to sell their guns to a dealer before then or have them imprinted with a serial number by a federally licensed arms dealer, the attorney general said.

The legislation would also change the definition of a firearm to included unfinished frames and receivers, bringing state law into line with a pending regulatory update by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, he added.

Top law enforcement officials on the virtual press briefing said they’ve seen an increase in “ghost guns” in their jurisdictions over the last several years.

Baltimore police seized 345 “ghost guns” in 2021, up from 12 three years ago, Harrison said. Of those, 32 were linked to a homicide or shooting, the commissioner said.

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Similarly, Prince George’s County police logged 264 “ghost guns,” compared with 17 three years ago, said Chief Malik Aziz.

Harrison said Baltimore police have already seized 31 privately made firearms in 2022, far outpacing last year.

“Due to the lack of regulation, ‘ghost guns’ have quickly become a weapon of choice for traffickers [and] criminals, and unless action is taken, I only expect this problem to get worse,” he said.

Two Montgomery County Democrats, Sen. Susan Lee and Del. Lesley J. Lopez, are sponsoring the legislation in Annapolis.

Mayor Scott joined other elected officials in calling for the ban to pass during the ongoing legislative session.

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“This really, to me, is common sense legislation that demonstrates a commitment to keeping our residents safe and holding those who use these illegal guns in the commission of a crime accountable without penalizing those who are hobbyists or legal gun owners,” he said.

CBS Baltimore Staff