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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.

More Information and Where to Get Help

back to topIf the abuser's gun is taken away, what will happen to it?

If the judge orders that the abuser’s gun(s) be taken away, s/he will have to give up any guns in his/her possession and will have to surrender any other guns to the law enforcement agency chosen by the judge within a reasonable amount of time.*  When the protective order expires, the abuser can go to the law enforcement agency that took the gun(s) to get it back. 

If your abuser’s gun(s) is taken away at the scene of a domestic violence incident (whether or not the gun was used during the incident), the law enforcement officer will store the gun(s) until the court proceedings related to the incident are over.**

* MD Code, Fam. Law §§ 4-505(a)(2)(viii), 4-506(f)
** MD Code, Fam. Law § 4-511

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back to topWho do I notify if I think the abuser should not have a gun?

If you think the abuser is violating state firearm laws, you can call your local police or sheriff department or the State Police.  If you think the abuser is violating federal firearm laws, you can call the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). 

You can find contact information for sheriff departments in your area on our MD Sheriff Departments page.

You can find ATF field offices in Maryland on the ATF website.  For reporting illegal firearm activity, a person can also call 1-800-ATF-GUNS (1-800-283-4867).  Many ATF offices have victim advocates on staff (called “victim/witness coordinators”) and so perhaps you may ask to speak one of these advocates if you are having a hard time connecting with (or receiving a call back from) an ATF officer. 

A local domestic violence organization in your area may also be able to answer your questions and assist you in talking to the necessary law enforcement officials. You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our MD State and Local Programs page. 

Note: Generally, the abuser does not have to have knowledge of the law in order to be arrested for breaking the law.  If the abuser has or buys a gun in violation of the law, the abuser can be arrested, whether or not s/he knows that s/he was in violation of the law.* 

United States v. Lippman, 369 F. 3d 1039 (8th Cir. 2004); United States v. Henson, 55 F. Supp. 2d 528 (S.D. W.V. 1999)

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back to topWhat is the penalty for violating state or federal firearm law?

Anyone who owns, has or buys a gun in violation of the federal firearm law can be punished by a fine, jail time for up to 10 years, or both.*

Under Maryland state law, anyone who has a gun in violation of the state firearm prohibition can be guilty of a felony and punished by jail time between 5 and 15 years.**  Also, any other violation of a protective order (interim, temporary, or final) can be a misdemeanor and can be punished by jail time, a fine, or both, as well.

* 18 USC § 924(a)(2)
** MD Code, Public Safety § 5-133(c)(2)(i)

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back to topI do not have a protective order against the abuser, and s/he has not been convicted of a crime. Can s/he have a gun?

Even if you do not have a protective order against the abuser and s/he has not been convicted of any crime, Maryland state law makes it illegal for the following other people to have a firearm:

  • 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);* or
  • s/he is under age 21 (although there are some exceptions, listed in section (d) of the statute).**

If any of these apply to your situation, please talk to an advocate in your area about how this law is being enforced.

If none of these situations apply, you can still make a plan for your safety.  See our Staying Safe page for more information. You can also contact your local domestic violence organization for additional help.  You may want to talk to them about whether leaving the area - either long term or for a little while - might help improve your safety.  See our MD State and Local Programs page to find a local domestic violence organization near you.

For additional information on gun laws in Maryland, you can go to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence website.

* MD Code, Public Safety § 5-133(b)
** MD Code, Public Safety § 5-133(d)

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back to topWhat will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?

Before purchasing a gun from a licensed firearm dealer, all buyers must undergo a criminal background check that is processed through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).  If the abuser has a qualifying protection order against him/her, or has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor in any state, those records should be in the NICS, which should prevent the abuser from buying a gun.  Not all states have automated record keeping systems, making it more difficult to process the criminal background check, and some criminals and abusers do slip through the system.  Also, it is important to know that background checks are not required for private and online gun sales.  

If the abuser is able to purchase a gun and you believe that s/he should not be able to have one under the law, you can alert the police, and ask that his/her gun be taken away and perhaps the police will investigate.  Generally, it is not a good idea to assume that because the abuser was able to buy a gun, it is legal for him/her to have one.

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back to topThe abuser uses a gun for his/her job. Does the law still apply?

Maybe. If the abuser is a law enforcement officer, military employee or government employee, then s/he might be able to continue to use his/her gun for work purposes, but not for personal use, even if there is a protective order against him/her.*  However, if the abuser has been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor, then under federal law, s/he cannot buy or have a gun, even if s/he is a police officer or a military employee.**

If you are confused or not sure whether or not the abuser can still use his/her gun for work purposes, you can talk to a domestic violence advocate in your area or call the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit to find out more information: 1-800-903-0111, ext. 2.

To find a domestic violence advocate in your area, please go to our MD State and Local Programs page. 

* 18 USC § 925(a)(1); see also MD Code, Public Safety § 5-102(4)
** 18 USC § 925(a)(1)

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back to topI've read through all of this information, and I am still confused. What can I do?

Trying to understand both federal and state law can be confusing, but there are people out there who can help you better understand the law and your rights under the law.

  • You can also contact the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit to get more information about the federal firearm law and how it applies to you: 1-800-903-0111, ext. 2.
  • You can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area - see our MD State and Local Programs page.
  • You can write to our Email Hotline.

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