2021 | Government

Montgomery County bans undetectable ‘ghost’ guns

Legislation targets reduction in guns with unfinished frames or receivers

Pictured is a "ghost" gun recovered from a minor by the Montgomery County Police Department on Dec. 30. Ghost guns are usually undetectable and made out of plastic or fiberglass. The guns can be purchased without a background check.

Photo from Montgomery County Police

In an effort to reduce the number of untraceable, plastic and fiberglass “ghost guns,” Montgomery County officials have banned the “do-it-yourself” version of firearms.

On Tuesday, the County Council unanimously voted to ban the firearms, which have become a popular and available way to purchase undetectable guns without background checks.

Ghost guns have unfinished frames or receivers and are unserialized. Undetectable guns evade metal detectors and can be made with 3D printers.

Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz spearheaded the legislation.

State Del. Lesley Lopez (D-Germantown) proposed similar legislation for a statewide restriction, but, with the General Assembly’s session nearly over, her bill has not gotten out of committee.

President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a national crackdown on ghost guns.

“It is alarming that [ghost guns fall] into a gray area of both federal and state policy,” Albornoz said. “Everything that we can do to prevent these weapons of destruction from getting into the hands of those people who utilize them for destruction, and especially for our children and youth, is an important step forward.”

The bill will help address gun violence, especially in communities that are disproportionately impacted and in minority communities, he said.

“There is a corresponding piece of state legislation, some of which would preempt our county legislation, but this has moved forward now almost three years in Annapolis without passing,” Albornoz said. “Our hope is that it passes this time around, but this legislation will protect us in the event that it does not, to continue to protect our community.”

In 2019, a state bill on ghost guns passed the House but did not advance out of committee in the Senate. Versions of the bill did not get out of committee in 2020 or 2021.

The county’s bill prohibits a person from transferring a ghost or undetectable gun to a minor. It also prohibits storing the gun or its components in a place accessible to minors.

In addition, the sale, transfer, or possession of firearms created with a 3D printer within 100 yards of a place of public assembly is prohibited.

In 2020, the Montgomery County Police Department found 73 ghost guns — 12 times as many as the year prior, when six were found.

The department arrested 55 adults on charges of possessing or selling them, and three juveniles on charges of possessing them.

Prior to 2020, the department had seized a total of 25 ghost guns.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.