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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.

Guns and Protective Orders

back to topI have a temporary (ex parte) protection order against the abuser. Do I have to wait until I receive a permanent order before the abuser's gun is taken away?

Possibly not.  Maryland law allows a judge to order the respondent to give to law enforcement any firearm in his/her possession and to not have/use any firearm while you have the temporary protective order if the abuse consisted of:

  • the use or threatened use of a firearm by the respondent against a you; or
  • serious bodily harm (or a threat to cause serious bodily harm) to you.*

However, if there is no specific mention of a firearm restriction in the temporary order, then you may have to wait until you are given a permanent order.

* MD Code, Family Law §4-505(a)(2)(viii)

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back to topI have a protective order against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun?

No.  According to state and federal law, if you have a protective order that was issued by a state civil court against the abuser and meets federal law requirements, s/he cannot have a gun in his/her possession or buy a new gun.*  In order for your protective order to qualify under federal law, the defendant (a person who the order is against) must:

  • Be served (given) notice of the court hearing. In other words, the defendant must have been given paperwork that told him/her about the hearing.
  • Have an opportunity to attend the court hearing. Note: The abuser does not have to be at the hearing, but s/he has to have the opportunity to come to the hearing.
  • Be an "intimate partner" of the victim, which includes:
    • A current or former spouse
    • A person with whom you share a child
    • A person you live with or have lived with in the past.**

If your protective order has expired, it is no longer a valid order under federal law, which means the firearm ban also does not apply.   

Note: This law may not apply to law enforcement officials, military personnel, and other government employees who use guns while performing official duties.***  If the abuser is a police officer, member of the military, or someone else who uses a gun for his/her job, talk to your local domestic violence program about your options. See MD State and Local Programs to find a program in your area. 

* 18 USC § 922(g)(8); Maryland Code §5-133(b)(12)
** 18 USC § 921(a)(32)
***  18 USC § 925(a)(1)

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back to topIs there anything I can do to make it more likely that the abuser's gun is taken away when I get a protective order?

While it does not need to be written on your protective order that the abuser cannot own, buy or have a gun in order for the federal law to be enforced, it may make it easier if it is written.  There are a couple steps you can take to try to take to help make this clear:

  1. If the abuser has a gun, tell the judge how many guns s/he has, and if s/he has ever threatened you with a gun(s);
  2. Ask the judge to specifically write in your protective order that the abuser cannot own, buy or have a gun while the order is in effect; and
  3. Before leaving the courthouse, check to make sure that the gun restriction is written on your order.

It also may be helpful if the judge explains what will happen to the abuser's guns, who will take them, and where they will be held once you leave the courthouse. If the judge agrees to add language that the abuser cannot keep his guns while the protective order is in effect, you may also want to ask that the judge:

  • Require the abuser to give his/her guns to the police, or require the police to go to the abuser's house and get them;
  • Make it clear to both you and the abuser how long the guns will be kept away from the abuser; and
  • Order that the police notify you when the guns are returned to the abuser.

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back to topMy abuser did not show up for the protective order hearing. Can his/her gun still be taken away?

Maybe. The abuser does not have to come to the hearing in order for the law to apply to him/her, but s/he does have to be given notice of the hearing and an opportunity to attend.*  If no hearing is scheduled, and/or no notice is given about the PO, then the federal firearm law might not apply to your abuser. **

* United States v. Bunnell, 106 F. Supp. 2d 60 (D. Me. 2000), aff'd 280 F. 3d 46 (1st Cir. 2002.)
** United States v. Spruill, 292 F. 3d 207 (5th Cir. 2002.)

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