Maryland legislators, advocates celebrate recent gun control measures, call for civil liability for gun manufacturers | Region

Second Amendment

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Densely packed in Lawyers Mall in Annapolis on Tuesday morning, mothers, advocates and policymakers celebrated a decade of legislative wins limiting firearm access and laid out plans to establish civil liability for gun dealers in 2024.

Since 2013, the General Assembly has passed legislation mandating universal background checks and requiring gun owners to apply for handgun qualification licenses, banned the sale and possession of ghost guns, implemented red flag laws, created guidelines on safe gun storage, limited who is eligible to receive a concealed-carry license and restricted where guns may be carried.

But advocates, and many politicians, say there is still more to do to protect Marylanders from the threat of gun violence — especially in the wake of a 4th Circuit Court decision restricting the scope of recently passed gun control legislation.

“I want you to look around, I want you to soak it in, and I want you to ask yourselves this question: Where is the NRA today?” Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Vice Chair Jeff Waldstreicher, a Montgomery County Democrat, said at a rally hosted by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “Bereft. Beleaguered. Bedraggled. Besmirched. And, most importantly, bankrupt.”

The 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen overturned New York’s gun licensing policy, which had required applicants for permits to carry guns in public to demonstrate “proper cause,” and subsequently disrupted similar licensing processes in Maryland, California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

In response to that decision, Maryland’s legislature passed landmark gun control policies in 2023, limiting who is eligible to receive a concealed-carry license and where those guns can be carried.

But the specific law that restricts where handguns can be carried is being challenged in federal court on the basis that it violates the interpretation of the Second Amendment under the Bruen decision. In September, a judge restricted the scope of where guns are prohibited in Maryland, allowing them in establishments that sell alcohol, onto private property without the owner’s consent and within 1,000 feet of a protest or demonstration.

“I am so happy to have [had] the support from so many moms across my district and across the state as we passed meaningful, substantial legislation with regard to firearms in the last legislative session,” House Judiciary Committee Chair Luke Clippinger, a Democrat from South Baltimore, told the crowd. “It’s because of you that we were able to get that work done, and it’s because of you that we’re going to continue the work that we need to do here in Annapolis.”

Not all of 2023’s gun control legislation made it across the finish line, however, including a bill sponsored by Waldstreicher that would have allowed the attorney general or individual plaintiffs to sue firearms dealers and manufacturers for not having proper safeguards.

Since that bill did not make it out of committee in 2023, Waldstreicher is resurrecting it this year with Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chair Will Smith.

“No industry should be immune from lawsuits,” Waldstreicher said at Tuesday’s rally. “Not tobacco, not opioids, not firearms.”

Waldstreicher’s Gun Industry Accountability Act of 2024, or Senate Bill 488, would allow the attorney general and individual plaintiffs to be permitted to sue gun dealers and manufacturers if they don’t implement “reasonable controls” to prevent straw purchasers, gun traffickers, people who are prohibited from firearm possession, and anyone they believe has the intent to use a firearm in the commission of a crime from accessing guns.

Members of the firearms industry would also be susceptible to lawsuits if they don’t take measures to prevent the loss or theft of their products.

“When you stop caring about how your product is being used by bad actors, you are the bad actor,” said Waldstreicher.

Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Democrat, said Tuesday morning that he is “extremely supportive” of the bill, but there are legal questions that need to be evaluated before it moves.

“Hopefully the [Senate Judicial Proceedings] Committee will be able to work through and find something that can move forward, but, in this constitutional environment around gun regulations, the fact that any potential regulation has to be tied back to the time of muskets and single-use pistols is a challenging reality,” he said.


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