BALTIMORE (WJZ/AP) — With the clock winding down on the Maryland General Assembly’s legislative session, Gov. Larry Hogan is calling for lawmakers to pass emergency legislation intended to crack down on crime.
Hogan on Friday allowed the state’s ban on ghost guns to become law without his signature, calling it a “positive step,” a move applauded by Attorney General Brian Frosh and advocacy groups including Maryland Moms Demand Action.READ MORE: Dunbar High School In Baltimore Releasing Early
But, saying the ban doesn’t have enough teeth, the governor challenged lawmakers to approve House Bill 423, known as the Violent Firearms Offender Act.
“(The ghost gun ban) does nothing to penalize those who actually pull triggers on firearms, and deflects away from the need to take decisive action to hold violent criminals accountable,” the governor said. “It is my hope that in the last days of this session, the General Assembly will do the right thing and pass the Violent Firearms Offender Act, so that we can ensure those who use guns to commit violent an heinous crimes remain off of our streets and out of our communities.”
The Violent Firearms Offender Act of 2022, which has not made it past committee, would impose stiffer sentences on those convicted of having or using illegal guns, such as those lacking serial numbers, along with anyone found to have provided weapons illegally to criminals.
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In a letter Friday to Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones, Hogan pointed to Baltimore City’s struggles with violent crime, noting that it is “on pace to exceed 300 homicides again,” and citing several high-profile murders.
He said city residents continue to “demand action to get violent shooters off the streets and out of their neighborhoods.”READ MORE: Maryland Weather: Cool & Cloudy With Some Sunshine
“This common sense legislation has the overwhelming support of a vast majority of Baltimore City residents, and residents across the state,” Hogan wrote. ” … This bill will make our streets safer and save countless lives, but it has yet to receive a vote in either chamber.”
The bill outlawing untraceable firearms, often called ghost guns, requires that any firearms manufactured after Oct. 22, 1968, contain serial numbers. Ghost guns are routinely bought in pieces online and then assembled by the purchase.
In a statement, Frosh said ghost guns are a growing threat to public safety and can be readily purchased in kits online.
“Violent felons, children, and abusers are obtaining these lethal guns in ever larger numbers. Not only are these weapons dangerous, these unserialized, untraceable firearms hinder law enforcement’s efforts to solve gun crimes,” Frosh said. “Our law banning ghost guns in Maryland will save lives.”
The session is set to come to an end Monday, meaning any bill that has not been sent to Hogan’s desk by the end of that day will be shelved until the next session.
Saying it is time to “put politics aside and get this done,” Hogan urged Ferguson and Jones to advance the Violent Firearms Offender Act.
“At the very least, I ask you to give the victims and their families a vote, so that legislators can explain to their constituents where they stand on this issue.”MORE NEWS: Baltimore Teen Co-Hosts Season Of PBS NewsHour Podcast On Youth Mental Health
Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report.