Maryland has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, and a large number of these laws are designed to punish people for illegal possession of handguns, rifles and shotguns. There are numerous different provisions in the state code that address gun possession, and there are a few that are somewhat obscure. Most people know that being convicted of a felony prohibits a person from ever possessing a gun, but this is far from the only restriction placed on a former defendant in a criminal case. The public safety code actually lists more of the impactful gun laws in the state than the criminal law code, and thus it can be hard for layperson to even find the Maryland gun laws. Remember that not being aware of the laws will not buy you any sympathy in court, as the classic saying of ignorance of the law is not an excuse comes to mind. If you cannot find the gun laws that may apply to you then reach out to an attorney just to be sure. The following is a brief overview of some of the Maryland gun laws that may apply to normal everyday people.
As of a couple years ago anyone who wants to purchase a handgun in Maryland has to apply for and be granted a license or HQL. The HQL laws do not apply to rifles and shotguns, so you can walk into any sporting goods store or gun shop, fill out a form and leave with a powerful firearm. Clearly, the state legislature as singled out and targeted handguns, but this doesn’t mean the laws are relaxed when it comes to rifles and shotguns. Many people believe that the strict Maryland gun laws only apply to handguns due to the notoriety of the HQL and all that it entails, but this could not be further from the truth. If you are prohibited from possessing a handgun you are undoubtedly also prohibited from possessing a rifle, shotgun or any other type of firearm. This includes muzzle loaders or even antiques that are in a case or mounted on a wall. If it fires a bullet then it’s a firearm. It may be easier to buy a hunting rifle but it definitely is not safer to possess one if you’ve been convicted of a criminal charge.
Without a doubt the most common reason a person would be prohibited from possessing a firearm is if they have been convicted of a disqualifying crime. Under Maryland law a disqualifying crime means any felony and any misdemeanor that carries more than a two-year maximum penalty. If you pled guilty to any offense, no matter how long ago it occurred you should check the exact statute to make sure you can legally possess a gun. Even if you never travel with a gun it is not advisable to have one in your home if you have been convicted of a crime. You never know when a police officer could enter your home, as we have seen cases where police show up on an unrelated matter and find guns. Probation before judgment or PBJ is not considered a conviction for gun possession purposes unless the PBJ was granted in a domestically related second degree assault charge. Anyone who has faced a domestic violence charge should contact a lawyer before deciding to possess a firearm in Maryland. In addition all individuals who have an active peace order or protective order are not allowed to possess any type of firearm until the order expires are is withdrawn by a judge.
The bottom line is that if you have been to court for a case you should consult with a lawyer about your ability to lawfully possess a gun in the state. Benjamin Herbst is a Maryland gun lawyer that handles all types of state and federal charges including unlawful possession and possession of a handgun, rifle or shotgun by a prohibited person. He offers free consultations about all offenses under the public safety code and the general criminal law code.