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Maryland Gun Control Laws

Gun control laws remain controversial in the U.S. today for many reasons. Increases in gun violence and mass shootings bring public cries for laws to protect the public. At the same time, lawmakers must try to balance safety concerns with the right of individuals to have and own guns. 

Those drafting laws related to firearms must also consider recent decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court that have upheld an individual right to bear arms under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Each state's gun laws vary. They reflect the specific concerns and politics at play in a given state. The state of Maryland has gun laws that are more restrictive than several other states. For example, it passed an assault weapons ban in 2013, less than one year after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut.

Maryland Gun Control Laws

Maryland's gun control laws are more comprehensive than those found in many other states. The state's gun regulations address the purchase, possession, use, and carry of firearms. Maryland law also restricts who can have guns and bans certain dangerous firearms and accessories.

Maryland has taken several steps to keep guns from falling into the wrong hands. Those under 21 years of age cannot possess a handgun or an assault weapon, including ammunition for those firearms. Those under 18 cannot purchase a long gun (rifle, shotgun) or ammunition.

Maryland also prohibits those convicted of felonies and certain other crimes from possessing firearms and ammunition. Those adjudicated as incompetent or not legally responsible due to mental health concerns also cannot have guns. 

In 2018, the Maryland General Assembly passed a red flag law, creating a process where a police officer or family member can petition a court to have firearms removed from someone found to be a threat to self or others.

Maryland Permit Laws

Maryland requires anyone purchasing a handgun or assault weapon to be at least 21 years old and to complete an application for a purchase license. Those seeking to buy, rent, or receive a handgun must also complete an approved firearms safety training course and have a handgun qualification license (HQL).

The Maryland State Police oversees the permit application process for the state through its licensing division. A criminal background check must occur on all purchases, sales, and transfers, whether they occur through a licensed firearms dealer or via a private transaction. Gun dealers must also have a license to operate a firearms business in the state.

Individuals seeking to wear and carry a handgun, concealed or open, need to apply for a concealed carry permit. Otherwise, they are limited to only carrying the firearm at their residence, on land they own, or at a place of business they own or lease. Carry permits are also limited to persons who are 21 years old and otherwise not prohibited from possessing firearms. 

Detailed eligibility requirements can be found in the table below.

Location Prohibitions

As in other states, Maryland law sets forth certain locations where gun owners cannot take a firearm. There are common exemptions for on-duty law enforcement officers and active members of the Armed Forces. Maryland law bans firearms in the following places:

  • Areas for children and vulnerable adults (preschools, schools)
  • Public infrastructure and government buildings (state and local government, university buildings, polling locations)
  • Special purpose areas (stadiums, museums, amusement parks, racetracks, video lottery facilities, establishments that serve alcohol or cannabis for consumption)
  • Private property open to the public unless there is explicit signage that concealed handguns are permitted
  • Demonstrations in a public place or in a vehicle within 1,000 feet when law enforcement has provided notice

Preemption Law

In most instances, there is a preemption for Maryland state law on matters involving firearms. This limits localities from passing gun regulations that conflict with state law. 

State law provides exceptions for local government regulations involving minors and the discharge of guns other than range shooting. It also permits cities like Baltimore and Annapolis to regulate gun-related conduct in or within 100 feet of a park, church, school, public building, and other places of public assembly.

Overview of Maryland Gun Control Laws

The main provisions of Maryland's gun control laws are listed in the table below.

Relevant Maryland Gun Control Statutes (Laws)

Maryland Code, Criminal Law, Title 4, Sections 4-101 through 4-407

Maryland Code, Public Safety, Title 5, Sections 5-101 through 5-805

Illegal Arms

The following weapons and accessories are prohibited, with limited exceptions in Maryland:

  • Assault weapons
  • Short-barreled rifles
  • Short-barreled shotguns
  • Machine guns
  • Detachable magazines with with capacity for over 10 rounds of ammunition
  • Bulletproof body armor
  • Certain un-serialized firearms, frames, and receivers

Maryland's statutes contain a lengthy list of weapons that qualify as assault weapons, including certain semiautomatic pistols.

Waiting Period

Maryland has a seven-day waiting period between the time of the purchase application and delivery for sales of regulated firearms (handguns and assault weapons). Maryland does not have a waiting period for the sale of rifles or shotguns.

Who May Not Own

Maryland law prohibits the possession of a firearm under most circumstances if the person:

  • Is under 21 years of age (handguns and assault weapons)
  • Has been convicted of a violent crime, felony, or other specified crimes
  • Is a fugitive from justice
  • Is a habitual drunkard
  • Is addicted to or a habitual user of a controlled substance
  • Has mental health disorders and a violent criminal history
  • Has been found incompetent to stand trial or not criminally responsible
  • Has been confined to a mental health institution for 30 consecutive days
  • Has been involuntarily committed to a mental health care facility
  • Is under the protection of a guardian by court order for other than a physical disability
  • Is subject to a qualifying protective order
  • Is under 30 years old and has been adjudicated delinquent by a juvenile court for an act that would disqualify them from owning a gun if committed by an adult

License Required?

Yes. A handgun qualification license (HQL) is required to purchase a handgun in Maryland.

Concealed Carry License Required?

Yes. With a few exceptions, a person cannot carry a handgun without a concealed handgun permit in Maryland. Gun owners must also follow state laws governing location restrictions.

Open Carried Allowed?

Yes. However, open carry of a handgun is restricted to handgun permit holders. Gun owners must also follow state laws governing location restrictions.

Eligibility for a Concealed Carry License

To be eligible for a handgun concealed carry permit, a person must:

  • Be at least 21 years old (or at least 18 years old if a member of the National Guard, armed forces of the U.S., or the uniformed services)
  • Not have been convicted of a felony or of a misdemeanor for which a sentence of imprisonment for more than one year has been imposed (unless pardoned)
  • Not have been convicted of a crime involving the possession, use, or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance
  • Not be on supervised probation for a crime punishable by imprisonment for one year or more, DUI, or violating a protective order
  • Not be an alcoholic, addict, or habitual user of a controlled dangerous substance unless the habitual use of the controlled dangerous substance is under legitimate medical direction
  • Not suffer from a mental disorder or have a history of violence against the person or another
  • Have not been involuntarily admitted for more than 30 consecutive days to a healthcare facility
  • Not be subject to a qualifying protective order, extreme risk protection order, or other order prohibiting the purchase or possession of firearms
  • Have completed an approved firearms safety training course
  • Not exhibit a propensity for violence or instability that may reasonably render the person's possession of a handgun a danger to the person or another
  • Not be otherwise prohibited by state or federal law from purchasing or possessing a firearm
  • Provide their fingerprints and pass a criminal background check

An applicant under the age of 30 years is qualified only if the Secretary finds that the applicant does not have a record of certain juvenile delinquent acts.

Machine Gun Laws

With limited exceptions, machine guns are prohibited in Maryland. If a specific machine gun is permissible, the owner must register it with the Secretary of State Police within 24 hours of acquiring it and annually each May.

Penalties for Illegal Firearm Possession

Maryland gun laws are strict. Violating the law can carry serious penalties, including:

  • Unlawful possession of a firearm after a prior conviction for a crime of violence or drug crime is a felony, punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment.
  • Unlawful possession of an assault weapon, rapid-fire trigger activator, or magazine with capacity for more than 10 rounds is punishable by imprisonment not exceeding three years and a fine up to $5,000. If used in a felony or crime of violence, the possible penalty increases to five to 20 years imprisonment, consecutive to the sentence for the underlying felony or crime of violence.
  • Unlawful possession of a short-barrel shotgun or short-barrel rifle is punishable by imprisonment not exceeding five years and a fine of up to $5,000
  • Unlawfully carrying a firearm in a prohibited location is punishable by imprisonment of up to one year and a fine of $1,000.
  • Unlawfully carrying a handgun is punishable by 30 days to three years imprisonment and a fine of $250 to $2,500

Penalties for Illegal Possession on or Near School Grounds

Carrying or possessing a firearm on public school property is punishable by up to three years imprisonment and a fine of up to $1,000. If the firearm is a handgun, the punishment is 90 days to five years imprisonment and a fine of $250 to $2,500.

Red Flag Law?

Yes. A family member, police officer, or certain other persons can file a petition before a court for an extreme risk protection order to prevent firearms access by a person deemed a threat to self or others.

Universal Background Checks?

Yes. Almost all firearms transactions will be subject to a criminal background check. Private sales and transfers must go to a licensed dealer to complete delivery.

Stand Your Ground Law?

No. Maryland requires that a person engaging in self-defense from an attack has a duty to safely retreat (when that is possible) before using deadly force, except when they are defending their home.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts that include federal decisions, ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the status of any state law(s) you are reviewing.

Federal Gun Laws

The responsibility for enacting fair and reasonable gun laws does not apply only to the states. Congress also plays a role in this area of law. Federal law regulates gun ownership by prohibiting the possession or ownership of certain dangerous weapons and ammunition. This often includes military-type weapons such as machine guns. Federal law also bans certain persons like convicted felons from having firearms.

U.S. laws like the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and the National Firearms Act apply in all states. Where federal and state laws intersect, federal law will take precedence.

Legal Challenges to Maryland Gun Laws

In 2022, the Supreme Court decided New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, whereby it found a constitutional right to carry guns in public for self-defense by law-abiding citizens.

In Bruen, the Court struck down a New York law that provided state officials with discretion to review the reasons an individual gave for seeking a concealed carry permit. The Court found that such permitting schemes must be based on objective criteria and not overly burden an individual's Second Amendment right to bear arms. It set forth a new historical test for the review of state firearm regulations.

After Bruen, the state legislature passed and Governor Wes Moore signed several new gun laws in 2023. This included updates to the state's handgun licensing and carry permit laws. The state also revised prohibitions for carrying guns in sensitive locations and tightened laws for the safe storage of guns around minors.

Based on Bruen, Maryland gun rights advocates filed a federal lawsuit challenging provisions of the state's handgun qualification license law and certain location restrictions. A separate lawsuit seeks to invalidate the state's assault weapons ban. Both of these cases are pending before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A decision may be forthcoming in 2024.

Research the Law

Learn More About Maryland Gun Control Laws From a Lawyer

It's important to comply with both state and federal gun laws. If you'd like to find out more about gun rights in Maryland, or you're facing gun-related charges, you can seek legal advice. Consider speaking with an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area today.

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