Maryland has some of the strictest handgun laws in the country. Not knowing the law is not a defense and you could be facing serious criminal consequences and jail time if you are caught illegally wearing, carrying or transporting a handgun in Maryland.
To help you better understand the laws and how to stay legal, we are going to break down the law and ways to keep you safe.
If you have been charged with illegal possession of a handgun or your person or in a vehicle, contact our office to schedule a free legal consultation today.
What is a handgun in Maryland?
A handgun is defined, under Maryland Criminal law 4-201, as a pistol, revolver, or other firearms capable of being concealed on the person.
The handgun legal definition includes a:
- Short–barreled shotgun (a shotgun that has one or more barrels less than 18 inches long or a weapon that has an overall length of less than 26 inches long and was made from a shotgun, whether by alteration, modification, or otherwise) and a
- Short–barreled rifle (a rifle that has one or more barrels less than 16 inches long or a weapon that has an overall length of less than 26 inches and that was made from a rifle, whether by alteration, modification, or otherwise.).
What are not handguns in Maryland?
- Shotguns (designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of the explosive in a fixed shotgun shell to fire through a smooth bore one or more projectiles for each pull of the trigger.)
- Rifles (designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned, and made or remade to use the energy of the explosive in a fixed metallic cartridge to fire only a single projectile through a rifled bore for each single pull of the trigger.) or
- Antique firearm (a firearm, including a firearm with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar ignition system, manufactured before 1899 or a replica of the aforementioned firearms that is not designed or redesigned to use rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition or uses rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition that is no longer manufactured in the United States and is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade).
Why are the handgun laws so strict in Maryland?
According to the Maryland legislature, and found in Maryland Criminal law 4-202, the handgun laws are so strict because the legislature found:
- “The number of violent crimes committed in the State has increased alarmingly in recent years.”
- “A high percentage of violent crimes committed in the State involves the use of handguns.”
- “The result is a substantial increase in the number of deaths and injuries largely traceable to the carrying of handguns in public places by criminals.”
- “Current law has not been effective in curbing the more frequent use of handguns in committing crime.”
- “Additional regulations on the wearing, carrying, and transporting of handguns are necessary to preserve the peace and tranquility of the State and to protect the rights and liberties of the public.”
While you may or may not agree with these statements, this is the current law and how the Maryland legislature has crafted the laws to fit these concerns.
Can I Wear or Carry a Handgun in Maryland?
No, you cannot wear or carry a handgun in Maryland unless you fall under one of the nine exceptions below.
Can I Transport a Handgun in my Vehicle in Maryland?
No, you cannot transport a handgun in your vehicle in Maryland unless you fall under one of the nine exceptions below.
If you do qualify under one of the exceptions, you may still be prohibited from transporting if you are on probation or parole.
What are the exceptions in Maryland to wear, carry or transport a handgun?
As mentioned before there are nine exceptions to the wear, carry and transport a handgun laws in Maryland.
Keep reading to find out if you fall within one of the exceptions for handgun wearing, carrying or transporting in Maryland. If you do not qualify under one of these exceptions, if caught with a handgun, you may face serious jail time, fines and lengthy probation.
Exception #1: Law Enforcement
It is legal to wear, carry, or transport a handgun if you are authorized as part of your official equipment, and you are:
- Law enforcement official of the United States, the State, or a county or city of the State;
- Member of the armed forces of the United States or of the National Guard on duty or traveling to or from duty;
- Law enforcement official of another state or subdivision of another state temporarily in this State on official business;
- Correctional officer or warden of a correctional facility in the State;
- Sheriff or full–time assistant or deputy sheriff of the State; or
- Temporary or part–time sheriff’s deputy;
If you do not qualify under of these law enforcement categories, then you are not allowed to wear, carry or transport a handgun under exception #1.
Exception #2: Possess a valid Maryland Wear and Carry Permit
It is legal to wear, carry, or transport a handgun, in compliance with any limitations imposed under 5–307 of the Public Safety Article, by a person to whom a permit to wear, carry, or transport the handgun has been issued under Title 5, Subtitle 3 of the Public Safety Article.
Exception #3: Transporting after purchase, repair, between residences or place of business
You may carry a handgun on your person or in a vehicle while you are transporting the handgun to or from
- The place of legal purchase or sale, or
- To or from a bona fide repair shop, or
- Between bona fide residences of the person, or
- Between the bona fide residence and place of business of the person, if the business is operated and owned substantially by the person
Each handgun must be unloaded and carried in an enclosed case or an enclosed holster while transporting.
Exception #4: Target Shooting, Hunting, Trapping, etc.
You may wear, carry, or transport a handgun used in connection with a(n):
- Organized military activity,
- A target shoot,
- Formal or informal target practice,
- Sport shooting event,
- Department of Natural Resources–sponsored firearms and hunter safety class,
- Trapping, or a dog obedience training class or show.
While you are engaged in, on the way to, or returning from that activity if each handgun is unloaded and carried in an enclosed case or an enclosed holster.
Exception #5: Gun Collectors
If you are a bona fide gun collector of part or all of your gun collection from place to place for public or private exhibition if each handgun is unloaded and carried in an enclosed case or an enclosed holster;
Exception #6: Homeowners or Business Owners
You may wear, carry, or transport a handgun on real estate that you own or leases or where you reside or within the confines of a business establishment that you owns or leases
Exception #7: Supervisory Employees at Work
If you are a supervisory employee you may wear, carry, or transport a handgun if it is:
- In the course of your employment;
- Within the confines of the business establishment in which you are the supervisory employee; and
- You must be authorized by the owner or manager of the business establishment to wear, carry or transport (it may be smart to have your employer put this in writing).
Exception #8: Signal Pistols
- On a vessel: You may carry or transport a signal pistol or other visual distress signal approved by the United States Coast Guard in a vessel on the waterways of the State
- In a Vehicle: You may carry or transport a signal pistol or other visual distress signal if it is unloaded and carried in an enclosed case while in your vehicle.
Exception #9: Ordered by the Court to Wear, Carry or Transport a Handgun
If you are carrying a court order requiring the surrender of the handgun you may the wear, carry, or transport of a handgun if:
- The handgun is unloaded;
- You have notified the law enforcement unit, barracks, or station that the handgun is being transported in accordance with the court order; and
- You transport the handgun directly to the law enforcement unit, barracks, or station.
What is the Penalty in Maryland for Wearing, Carrying or Transporting a Handgun?
The Maryland handgun law penalties vary depending on the criminal background of the individual.
Is Wearing, Carrying or Transporting a Handgun a Misdemeanor or Felony?
Wearing, carrying or transporting a handgun is classified as a misdemeanor.
Penalty: If you have never been convicted of wearing, carrying or transporting a handgun or dangerous weapon
Possible Mandatory Minimum Penalty: If you are convicted you could be required to spend no less than 30 days in jail.
Maximum Penalty: If convicted, the maximum penalty is 3 years in jail and a fine of not less than $250 and not exceeding $2,500.00.
Penalty: Convicted of Wearing, Carrying or Transporting a Handgun on Public School Property
If you are convicted of wearing, carrying or transporting a handgun on public school property then you are facing a minimum of 90 days in jail.
Penalty: Prior conviction for wearing, carrying or transporting a handgun or dangerous weapon
If you have has previously been convicted of wearing, carrying or transporting a handgun or dangerous weapon then you are subject to the following penalties:
- Imprisonment for not less than 1 year and not exceeding 10 years; or
- If you are convicted of wearing, carrying or transporting a handgun on public school property, them you are subject to imprisonment for not less than 3 years and not exceeding 10 years.
If Convicted, Can I Be Paroled During the Mandatory Period of Incarceration?
Except as provided in § 4–305 of the Correctional Services Article, if a person violates subsection (a)(1)(v) of this section, the person is not eligible for parole during the mandatory minimum sentence.
How Do I Know If I Will Face the Enhanced Penalties for Repeat Offenders?
If a mandatory minimum sentence is sought by the State’s Attorney, they must notify you in writing at least 30 days before trial of the State’s intention to seek the mandatory minimum sentence.
Penalty for Individuals with More Than One Prior Conviction?
If your have been previously convicted more than once of wearing, carrying or transporting a handgun or dangerous weapon, you are facing the following penalties:
- Imprisonment for not less than 3 years and not exceeding 10 years; or
- If caught on public school property you are subject to imprisonment for not less than 5 years and not exceeding 10 years; or
- If you are found to have committed the crime with the deliberate purpose of injuring or killing another person then you are subject to imprisonment for not less than 5 years and not exceeding 10 years.
How Can a Handgun Defense Lawyer Help?
If you have been charged with illegal wearing, carrying or transporting a handgun in Maryland, a criminal defense lawyer can help defend you rights and work to keep you out of jail and off probation.
In addition to a conviction, the state may ask the court to forfeit your handgun. If you have questions about the Maryland handgun law or have been charged, speak with on of our handgun lawyers today.