Maryland’s handgun and firearm laws are among the strictest in the nation. Understanding the laws fully means that one must comprehend both Maryland’s Criminal Law Article as well as the Public Safety Article – statutes that can be quite confusing to the layperson. The Criminal Law Article defines firearms to include handguns, rifles, shotguns, and short-barreled rifles and short-barreled shotguns. The Public Safety Article defines firearms broadly to include any weapon that expels a projectile by explosive means and further defines a handgun as a firearm with a barrel less than 16 inches long. While not all firearms require permits, handguns do. Assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines are banned altogether.
The following individuals may not possess a firearm of any kind: those convicted of a disqualifying crime (just about any crime of violence, assault, or sexual offense) and those convicted of distribution of any drug. Those under the age of 21 may not possess a firearm. There is an exception allowing juveniles to possess a firearm provided they are under supervision of someone over 21, which allows juveniles to hunt. Other under-21 exceptions include members of the armed forces, those required to possess a firearm due to their job, when participating in marksmanship training, and in self-defense inside a residence.
The law also regulates who can purchase firearms. Only one firearm may be purchased in a 30-day period unless multiple purchases are approved by the state, or if the person is a firearms dealer. Individuals purchasing firearms must submit an application, which includes a number of requirements including a handgun qualification license. Firearm training is just one of the requirements for firearm ownership.
There has been a lot of press hype about a “gun show loophole”. The Public Safety Article defines a gun show as a place open to the public where any firearm is displayed. Anyone who is not a licensed firearms dealer must obtain a temporary transfer permit to display firearms for sale or transfer. Both the gun dealer and the temporary transfer permittee must abide by all firearm sales requirements before making a sale. In essence, there is no “gun show loophole” under Maryland law.
The following are disqualified from obtaining a handgun permit: juveniles, anyone convicted of a crime and sentenced to more than a year, anyone convicted of any drug offenses – including possession, and anyone under age 30 who was found delinquent as a juvenile. Additionally, one may not be an alcoholic, drug addict, or be prone to violence. A handgun permit applicant must also demonstrate that he or she has a good and substantial reason to wear, carry, or transport a handgun as a reasonable precaution against a perceived danger and have taken, unless exempt, a handgun safety course.
Without a handgun permit, one may not wear, carry, or transport a handgun in Maryland. Maryland does not recognize handgun permits from other states. No permit is required to carry on one’s property or business; to transport to or from a residence, place of business, or shooting range; or if one is a bona fide gun collector. When transporting, the handgun must be unloaded and carried in an enclosed case or holster. Simply carrying a handgun in your car without a permit can result in a misdemeanor conviction with up to three years in prison.
Make sure you’re aware of the firearm and handgun laws in Maryland – ignorance of the law is no excuse. Some of the more serious offenses involving unlawful possession of a handgun or firearm can result in many years in state prison. The scope of all handgun and firearm laws cannot be captured in the space of this article. Consult with an attorney experienced in firearms and handgun laws if you have any doubts about what you can and cannot do with handguns and firearms in Maryland.
Steven W. Rakow, Esquire, handled dozens of handgun and firearm possession prosecutions as an assistant state’s attorney. Now in private practice, he focuses on civil litigation, construction law, criminal and traffic law, and other general practice matters. He’s also a retired Marine officer. Steve can be reached at 410-600-3075, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through his website www.steverakowlaw.com.