Maryland has become notorious in the region for having overly harsh gun laws, and easily ranks among the top ten states in the country for the strictest set of laws. The gun laws in neighboring states to the south and west such as Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina are not even in the same league as Maryland. The same is true for other East Coast states including South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. In these states it is legal and fairly common to transport a firearm in a vehicle, and in some it’s perfectly legal to carry a handgun on your person without a permit. Maryland’s gun laws are far more in line with New Jersey and New York when it comes to carrying and transporting handguns and other firearms, and violations of these laws often mean immediate arrest and potential jail time. The Second Amendment however does still offer some protection for Maryland gun owners who wish to legally arm themselves in public, provided they fit the eligibility requirements and are willing to navigate the miles of red tape it takes to obtain a permit.
In this post we will give a brief overview of the process to obtain a license to carry a handgun, and the possible hurdles a potential applicant may face. The Handgun Qualification License or HQL does not allow a person to do anything but purchase a firearm, and will not be discussed further in this post. The majority of Maryland gun laws are listed under the Public Safety Article, which contains dozens of statutes ranging from simple to highly confusing. Title 5 deals with all the firearm laws and subtitle 3 codifies the handgun permit regulations. According to §5-303 a permit is required any time a civilian wishes to carry a handgun. Transportation of a gun may still be legal without a permit provided the owner has complied with the criminal statute that mandates the firearm be in a case, unloaded and inaccessible by the driver. The gun owner would also be limited to traveling to and from his or her home or a gun range/shop.
The first step in obtaining a Maryland handgun carry license is to determine eligibility. There is no sense in wasting the time and money to apply only to be denied due to ineligibility. An applicant must be an adult and cannot have a felony conviction or a conviction for a misdemeanor if more than 1-year of incarceration was imposed. Federal law would also prohibit an applicant who has any criminal conviction for an offense that carries more than 2 years of incarceration, regardless of the length of the actual sentence. Most people who are interested in applying for a carry permit are well aware of these few provisions, and probably would not bother applying in the first place. What they may not be aware of is that Maryland law also prohibits anyone with a drug conviction of any kind from obtaining a carry permit. This includes possession of marijuana, and cases that may have occurred decades ago. Applicants must also not be habitual users of drugs or alcohol or have exhibited a propensity for violence or instability. This last provision may apply to anyone who has been served with a domestic violence protective order.
An applicant that meets the eligibility requirements must then create an online profile with the Maryland State Police licensing portal, where they can upload documents such as proof of the required fingerprinting and completion of 16 hours of instruction by a qualified handgun instructor. Finally, the applicant must demonstrate a good and substantial reason to wear, transport or carry a handgun. This requirement has been the topic of much controversy and heated discussion not only in Maryland, but around the country. There is a current United States Supreme Court case originating in New York where the requirement to prove a substantial need to the state is being challenged as an unconstitutional infringement of the Second Amendment. If the New York law, which is similar to the Maryland law, is declared unconstitutional then Marylanders would no longer need to prove to the MSP that they need a carry permit. Rather, applicants would just be expected to meet the eligibility requirements.
The Blog will follow the Supreme Court case and may post a follow up article if a decision that impacts Maryland law comes down. We will also continue to follow the evolving gun laws in our state. If you are interested in applying for a handgun carry permit, The Herbst Firm’s gun lawyers are standing by to assist with your application. As always Benjamin Herbst is available to defend anyone charged with one of Maryland’s strict gun laws including wear, transport carry of a handgun, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. It is also a crime for anyone with a carry permit to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol while in possession of their gun. This provision is similar to the federal law that does not allow an intoxicated individual to posses a firearm under any circumstances. A violation of the Maryland state law is considered a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 1 year in jail. Contact Maryland gun lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime at 410-207-2598 for a free consultation about your criminal case or for questions about the state gun laws.