In the package are liberal policies — such as an expansion of abortion care access, an accelerated climate change plan, a framework for legalizing recreational marijuana, increased gun-control regulations and a costly paid family leave program. The issues are unpopular with Republican voters, and Hogan, who is considering a presidential run in 2024, has largely avoided the topics, especially abortion.
Explaining his decision, Hogan tweeted Friday morning that the ghost gun legislation is “a positive step” toward preventing violent crime but “it does nothing to penalize those who actually pull the trigger on firearms.”
He also again criticized the General Assembly for failing to move on his crime package, including a measure that would enhance the penalties of those who use guns in violent crimes.
The decision to present the bills to the governor early was a preemptive strike that enables the legislature to overturn the governor’s vetoes before the 90-day session ends on Monday. Under a provision in the state constitution, bills submitted to the governor at least six days before the end of a legislative session become law after six days, unless the governor issues a veto.
Hogan has until April 8 to decide whether he will sign the measures, veto them or allow them to become law without his signature.
Hogan’s approach to gun control has been mixed, endorsing certain measures while rejecting others.
He signed a ban on the sale of bump stocks and a “red flag” law that allows judges to seize firearms from people deemed a threat to themselves or others. He also vetoed an effort to restrict who can get a concealed carry permit.
During his first campaign in 2014, gun rights advocates said he offered private assurances that he would work to expand access to firearms. During his second in 2018, he publicly sought distance from the National Rifle Association and said he would not accept the group’s endorsement.
Banning ghost guns was a top priority of law enforcement this session, with Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) leading the effort. Police chiefs and prosecutors across the state said the firearms, which are assembled from parts and sold in kits on the Internet without background checks, are increasingly becoming the weapon of choice among criminals.
In Prince George’s County, there were 27 ghost guns seized in 2019, police said. Last year, there were 264. The county police chief said earlier this year that investigators have linked at least 13 homicides, 10 robberies and 20 aggravated assaults — many committed by young people, including some in their teens — to ghost guns since 2019.
The new law would ban the sale, receipt and transfer of unfinished frames or receivers that are not serialized by the manufacturer, and the ban to purchase new ghost guns would take effect June 1. The effective date for possession would take effect March of next year.
The bill would not apply to antique firearms or guns manufactured before 1968; a grandfather clause would allow someone with a ghost gun to either sell the firearm to a licensed dealer or have the weapon properly imprinted with a serial number by a federally licensed dealer.