This week, hearings on Republican-sponsored legislation to criminalize handgun theft in Maryland took place in both the House and the Senate.
The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on Senate Bill 39, sometimes known as the Gun Theft Felony Act, and House Bill 304.
Theft of a firearm is classified as a “general theft statute” under current law. The worth of the stolen item, not the object itself, determines the penalties that are applied.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, weapons and Explosives revealed in 2023 that over 1.07 million weapons were reported stolen in the United States between 2017 and 2021, with 96% of those firearms coming from private individuals. It is a misdemeanor to steal anything less than $1,500 in worth.
Senate Minority Leader Justin Ready stated in a news release, “We hear the term ‘gun violence’ over and over again in public safety debates in Annapolis.” Most of these crimes are carried out with firearms that were obtained illegally. Making gun theft a criminal offense with actual jail time establishes a vital deterrent for the primary source of illicit firearms: theft. Firearms are not comparable to other pilfered items. We have to be aware of the possible harm that dishonest people using stolen weapons could cause.
Delegate Rachel Munoz stated in a news release that “making the theft of a firearm a felony makes sense and is something the majority of Marylanders agree with.” The General Assembly is the only body in our state where there is disagreement about this proposal. This bill, which ought to have been passed years ago, is a crucial step in preventing stolen firearms from being on the streets and maintaining community safety. This is a bill that our people demand, and this year’s General Assembly must complete it.