Here are six key Maryland gun statutes that all Maryland gun owners (or those looking to become gun owners) should know. We encourage all readers to further explore Maryland Criminal Law Code Title 4 – Weapons Crimes and Maryland Public Safety Code Title 5 – Firearms for more detailed information.
1. MD Crim Law Code § 4-201
This is a definition statute and is important because its terms are a foundation for other gun statutes in Maryland. If you own a gun in Maryland, you need to know how a weapon is defined according to the statute. A “handgun” is defined as a pistol, revolver, short-barreled shotgun or short-barreled rifle, or any other firearm which can be concealed on someone’s person. Rifles, shotguns and antique firearms DO NOT fall within the definition of “handguns.” This is an important distinction because many Maryland statutes apply to handguns, but not other firearms.
2. MD Crim Law Code § 4-203 (Wearing, Carrying or Transporting Handgun)
You are prohibited from having, carrying or transporting a handgun in Maryland unless you fall within certain statutory exceptions, including but not limited to:
- Certain individuals are allowed to wear or carry handguns as a part of their employment. These individuals include: policemen, military personnel, correctional officers and a few others.
- Maryland residents with a valid permit can carry and transport handguns. We’ll discuss these permits and how you can get one later in this article.
- You can carry or transport a handgun if you are on your way to or engaged in certain legitimate activities, such as hunting, taking the gun for repairs, or target practice, and if you are traveling between your own residences or places of business. However, while transporting the handgun in all these situations, it MUST be unloaded and safely stored in an enclosed case or holster.
- You are also permitted to carry/wear a handgun on you when you are in your residence or a place of business that you own or lease. You cannot wear a handgun in a place of business if you are merely an employee there; you must have a substantial ownership interest in the place of business.
A violation of this statute can carry severe penalties, so it’s important to know what is and is not allowed. A first-time violation of this statute will carry a minimum jail sentence of 30 days and fine of up to $2,500. A second violation of the statute will result in a minimum jail term of one year, and possibly up to ten years. A third violation will result in a minimum jail term of three years. You should note that the penalties for violating this statute are more severe if the violations occur on public school property.
3. MD Crim Law Code § 4-204 (Use of handgun or antique firearm in commission of a crime)
This is a confusing statute. The title explicitly makes reference to handguns and antique firearms. Those terms were already defined in § 4-201. However, the body of the statute itself goes on to prohibit the use of any firearm, and includes within the definition of “firearm” the following weapons: “antique firearm, handgun, rifle, shotgun, short-barreled rifle, short-barreled shotgun, starter gun, or any other firearm, whether loaded or unloaded.” If someone were be found guilty of using any of the firearms mentioned above during the commission of a crime of violence or any felony, the person would be subject to a minimum jail term of five years, and possibly up to twenty years.
Furthermore, the statute explicitly mandates the court to impose at least a five year sentence, and also explicitly states that the convicted person will not be eligible for parole prior to serving five years. Crimes of violence are statutorily defined in § 5-101 of Maryland’s Public Safety Code.
4. MD Pub Safety Code § 5-117.1 (Handgun qualification license required for purchase of handguns)
This statute governs what Maryland residents need to do in order to be able to purchase a handgun. You must first apply to the Secretary of State Police for a handgun qualification license (not to be confused with a handgun carry permit, which we’ll discuss later). In order to be eligible for this license, you must be at least 21 years old; a resident of Maryland; have completed within the last three years a firearm safety training course (approved by the Secretary) ; and pass a criminal background investigation. If for whatever reason the Secretary denies your application for a handgun license, you will receive a written notice with the reason for the denial. You have 30 days from the day the notice was sent to appeal the decision by submitting to the Secretary a request in writing for a hearing. The Secretary must grant you this hearing within 15 days.
5. MD Pub Safety Code § 5-133 (Restrictions on Possession of Regulated Firearms)
Certain individuals are prohibited in Maryland from possessing regulated firearms. Regulated firearms are defined in MD Pub Safety Code § 5-101(r) as consisting of: a) handguns, and b) a long list of specific automatic weapon makes and models. We urge readers to review that list if they are interested in purchasing an automatic weapon.
You cannot possess a regulated firearm in Maryland if you have been convicted of a “disqualifying crime.” Disqualifying crimes include crimes of violence, felonies, and any misdemeanor that carries a possible sentence of at least two years. Note that a sentence of probation before judgment for a crime of violence or certain domestically related crimes, although not technically a finding of guilt, is a “conviction of a disqualifying crime” for purposes of possessing a regulated firearm in Maryland. However, probation before judgment for second degree assault, or any probation before judgment that has been duly expunged from a person’s record, will not prohibit the person from possessing a regulated firearm.
Additionally, under Md. Pub Safety Code 5-133 § (c), anyone convicted of a crime of violence, certain other enumerated statutes , or a crime of another State or of the United States that would constitute a crime of violence in Maryland , is prohibited from possessing a regulated firearm. A violation of this part of the statute is a felony and carries a mandatory minimum 5-year prison sentence. The only exception is if more than five years have passed since the person finished serving their punishment for the underlying crime. In that case, the court may or may not impose the mandatory minimum sentence at its discretion. Furthermore, in a situation where five years have elapsed between the underlying crime and the firearm possession charge, the State’s Attorney must inform the defendant at least thirty days prior to trial that it will be seeking the mandatory minimum sentence. If the State’s Attorney fails to so notify the defendant, the court cannot impose a mandatory minimum sentence.
6. MD Pub Safety Code § 5-306 (Qualifications for Handgun Permit)
This statute lays out the conditions that you must meet if you want to be issued a permit allowing you to carry or transport a handgun on your person or vehicle. Section (a) states: “…[T]he Secretary [of State Police] shall issue a permit within a reasonable time to a person who…” § 5-306(a) (emphasis added). The Statute then goes on to list the conditions that Marylanders must meet in order to be granted a handgun carry permit:
- Must be an adult;
- Cannot have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor for which a sentence of 1 year or more was imposed ;
- Cannot have been convicted of a crime involving controlled dangerous substances (CDS);
- Cannot be an alcoholic, addict or habitual drug user;
- Must have completed a firearms safety course involving classroom instruction and practical instruction on how to safely us a firearm ; and
- Must pass a background investigation which shows that the applicant does not have a history or tendency towards violence, and which shows that the applicant has a “good and substantial” reason to be issued the handgun carry permit.
This last bullet point is important. Even though the language of the statute makes clear that the Secretary shall issue a permit to anyone who meets all the requirements, the background investigation allows the State police a good amount of latitude in its determination as to whether an applicant should be granted a permit. The statute, in § 5-306 (a)(6)(ii), does give one example of a “good and substantial” reason: “a finding that a permit is necessary as a reasonable precaution against apprehended danger.” Other than that, the statute is silent as to what constitutes a “good and substantial” reason for the Secretary to issue a permit, and so it will be up to the applicant to argue convincingly as to why he or she should be issued a permit.
If you have any questions about the information or statutes contained in this article, please contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys of Cohen Harris LLC for a free consultation.