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Know the Laws: Maryland

UPDATED April 19, 2017

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WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get in touch with a domestic violence advocate in your community for more information on gun laws in your area. To find a shelter or an advocate at a local program, please visit the MD State and Local Programs page.

Basic Info

back to topWhat is the difference between federal and state gun laws?

In these gun laws pages, we refer to both "federal gun laws" and "state gun laws."  The major difference between the two has to do with who makes the law, who prosecutes someone who violates the law, and what the penalty is for breaking the law.

One reason why it is important for you to know that there are these two sets of gun laws is so that you can understand all of the possible ways that the abuser might be breaking the law, and you can better protect yourself.  Throughout this section, we will be referring mostly to state laws.  Be sure to also read our Federal Gun Laws pages to see if any federal laws apply to your situation as well.  You will need to read both state and federal laws to see which ones, if any, the abuser might be violating.

If you are calling the police because you believe the abuser has violated a gun law, you do not necessarily need to be able to tell the police which law was violated (state versus federal) but local police cannot arrest someone for violating federal law, only for violating state/local laws.  Only federal law enforcement, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (“ATF”), can arrest someone for violating federal laws. If the local police believe that a state law is being violated, they could arrest the abuser and hand the case over to the state prosecutor.  If the local police believe a federal law is being violated, hopefully, the police department will notify the ATF or perhaps the U.S. Attorney’s office in your state (which is the federal prosecutor).  For information on how you can contact ATF directly to report the violation of federal gun laws, go to Who do I notify if I think the abuser should not have a gun?  If the abuser is breaking both state and federal laws, s/he might be prosecuted in both state and federal court.

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back to topI am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?

It depends.  If you have a protective order against the abuser, or if the abuser has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor, federal law states that it is illegal for him/her to buy, own or have a gun in his/her possession.*   If you are not sure if the abuser has been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, see What crimes are considered domestic violence misdemeanors?  To read the definition of a felony, see What is the definition of a felony?

In addition, Maryland state law says that a person cannot have or buy a gun if s/he:

  • has been convicted of a "disqualifying crime;"
  • has been convicted of a violation classified as a common law crime and received a term of imprisonment of more than 2 years;
  • is under the age of 30 and s/he has been adjudicated "delinquent" by a juvenile court for an act that would be a disqualifying crime if committed by an adult;
  • is a fugitive from justice;
  • is an alcoholic ("habitual drunkard") or a drug addict;
  • has a mental disorder and has a history of violent behavior against a person;
  • has been found to be "incompetent to stand trial" or "not criminally responsible;"
  • has been voluntarily admitted to a mental facility for more than 30 consecutive days or has been involuntarily committed to a facility (for any period of time);
  • is under the protection of a court-appointed guardian (except if the guardian is solely a result of a physical disability);
  • is subject to an active non-ex parte civil protective order (from a Maryland court or a court of another state or Native American tribe);** or
  • s/he is under age 21 (although there are some exceptions, listed in section (d) of the statute).***

* 18 USC § 922(g)(8) & (9)
** MD Code, Public Safety § 5-133(b)
*** MD Code, Public Safety § 5-133(d)

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