Maryland Gun Laws

Maryland has several laws that regulate the sale, possession and use of firearms within the state. Compared to other states in the country, the gun laws in Maryland are quite strict. In many cases Maryland’s regulations go beyond those set out by the federal government.

Purchasing a Firearm

The state has very stringent requirements in place for buying a handgun. In order to purchase a handgun an individual must undergo a thorough background check, submit fingerprints, and successfully complete a handgun safety course in order to obtain a Handgun Qualification License. A permit or license is not required to purchase a long gun. Some individuals, such as active or retired military members with identification or active or retired law enforcement officers, may be exempt from the requirement to obtain a Handgun Qualification License before purchasing a handgun for personal use.

Individuals who own a handgun are required to register their firearm; the Maryland State Police keep a permanent record of all handguns that are sold or transferred in the state. All automatic weapons must also be registered with the authorities. There is no registration requirement for long guns.

After filling out an application to purchase a handgun, there is a mandated 7 day waiting period before an individual can take possession of the gun. Maryland does not currently have a waiting period when purchasing a long gun.

Concealed Carry

Maryland is a “May Issue” state, meaning that the issuance of a concealed carry license is left to the discretion of city police chiefs or county sheriffs. In general, it is very difficult to get a concealed carry license in Maryland, as there are very strict guidelines and applicants for the license must provide a “good and substantial reason” for carrying a concealed handgun. At this time, Maryland does not recognize concealed carry licenses from any other states.

Open Carry

Open carry of a long gun is permitted in Maryland, but authorities reserve the right to prohibit open carry in certain situations or locations. In order to open carry a handgun on or near the body a person must obtain a license.

Transporting Firearms

It is prohibited to have a handgun in an automobile, whether open or concealed, without a license. The exceptions to the rule include transporting a handgun after making the initial purchase or getting a repair, or traveling to an organized military activity, sports shooting event, target practicing, or hunting trip. If transporting a handgun under the exceptions listed, the handgun must not be loaded, and it must be secured in a holster or other container. If transporting a long gun in a motor vehicle, the firearm must not have any ammunition in the magazine or chamber.

Castle Doctrine

In theory Maryland has adopted Castle Doctrine Laws, but they do not offer as much protection as the version of this law that other states do, and the Castle Doctrine is typically decided on a case by case basis. An owner of a home does not have a duty to retreat when threatened by an intruder, but he or she is not automatically protected from criminal charges if deadly force is used in self-defense against an intruder. The Court of Appeals in Maryland stated:

“The law of self-defense justifies an act done in the reasonable belief of immediate danger. If an injury was done by a defendant in justifiable self-defense, he can neither be punished criminally nor held responsible for damages in a civil action. . . . One who seeks to justify an assault on the ground that he acted in self-defense must show that he used no more force than the exigency reasonably demanded. The belief of a defendant in an action for assault that the plaintiff intended to do him bodily harm cannot support a plea of self-defense unless it was such a belief as a person of average prudence would entertain under similar circumstances.”

The court has also stated that “It is also essential that killing is necessary to prevent the commission of the felony in question. If other methods could prevent its commission, a homicide is not justified; all other means of preventing the crime must first be exhausted." These statements make the Castle Doctrine Laws in Maryland difficult to understand, so gun owners in Maryland must be cautious when firing upon an intruder threatening the safety of everyone in the home.