Thursday, June 3, 2021

Rockville gun dealer, others sue Montgomery County over new ghost gun law

Montgomery County is being sued in County Circuit Court over its recently-passed ghost gun law. Bill 4-21, passed by the Montgomery County Council on April 6, restricts the possession, use, sale, and transfer of ghost guns, undetectable guns, and certain other firearms within 100 yards of places of public assembly; restricts the possession, use, sale, and transfer of ghost guns, undetectable guns, and certain other firearms with respect to minors; and requires the Montgomery County Police Department to submit an annual report to the County Executive and the County Council regarding the availability and use of ghost guns and undetectable guns in the county. The new law is scheduled to go into effect July 16. But a new lawsuit says the law violates Article XI–E, § 3 of the Maryland Constitution, as well as other statutes on the books.

Maryland Shall Issue, Inc., a leading 2nd Amendment rights organization in the state, gun retailers, and several Montgomery County residents are plaintiffs in the suit. They seek to overturn the law, and to be compensated for damages and legal fees. 

The new law's provision on software designs for ghost guns violates the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the suit alleges. A recent 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision, said the 1st Amendment protects such computer code. New restrictions on possession and business transactions, as well as the overall "vague language" of the law, violate the Maryland Takings Clause (Article III § 40) and the Due Process Clause (Article 24)  of the Maryland Declaration of Rights 

Engage Armament, a gun retailer in Rockville, is one of the plaintiffs in the case. Its owner says the new County law prevents some transactions the store has been able to complete under existing federal and state laws, such as the sale of legal firearm components for assembly, and of computer code for such assembly. The store also falls within 100 yards of a place of public assembly as defined by the County Council, and has until now been able to legally make a firearm sale in the presence of a minor who is accompanied by a parent.

The lawsuit being filed also alleges the new ghost gun law violates the Maryland Express Powers Act, noting that Montgomery County cannot pass laws in conflict with existing state law. Montgomery County is attempting to redefine public gathering places as any ordinary private property that has current or future potential as a public gathering space, the suit alleges. Maryland law regarding the transfer of firearms preempts new restrictions being passed by local governments, it further notes. The suit is Maryland Shall Issue, Inc., et al vs. Montgomery County, Maryland.

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