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Legal Information: Maryland

Maryland State Gun Laws

State Gun Laws

This section contains information about who is prohibited from having a gun under Maryland state gun laws. However, in addition to these state-specific laws, there are also federal gun laws that could apply. To fully understand all of the legal protections available, it is important that you also read the Federal Gun Laws pages.

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. Go to the MD Places that Help page to find domestic violence organizations and legal help in your area.

Basic Info and Definitions

What 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.

What is the definition of a felony?

Throughout these gun law pages, we will refer to gun laws that make it illegal for someone convicted of a felony to have a gun. A felony is a more serious crime than a misdemeanor.

Under Maryland law, a felony is not specifically defined. Each criminal statute will say if that crime is considered a felony or if it is a lesser offense. Generally, a felony is a crime that is punishable by death or by imprisonment for more than one year. However, you cannot always tell if someone was convicted of a felony only by looking at the amount of time s/he actually served in prison since sentences are often reduced or pled down. If you are unsure if the abuser was convicted of a felony, you might want to talk to the prosecutor who handled the criminal case against the abuser to find out or go to the courthouse and search the conviction records.

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

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

  1. has been convicted of a "disqualifying crime;"1
  2. has been convicted of certain drug-related offenses or firearms-related offenses in Maryland or elsewhere, which are listed in section 5-133(c)(1)(ii) of the Maryland Criminal Code;2
  3. has been convicted of a “crime of violence” in Maryland or elsewhere. “Crimes of violence” include any of the following crimes or an attempt to commit any of them:
    • abduction;
    • arson in the first degree;
    • assault in the first or second degree;
    • burglary in the first, second, or third degree;
    • carjacking and armed carjacking;
    • escape in the first degree;
    • kidnapping;
    • voluntary manslaughter;
    • maiming;
    • mayhem;
    • murder in the first or second degree;
    • rape in the first or second degree;
    • robbery;
    • robbery with a dangerous weapon;
    • sexual offense in the first, second, or third degree;
    • home invasion; and
    • assault with intent to commit any of the above crimes or a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than 1 year;3
  4. has been convicted of a violation classified as a common law crime and was sentenced to prison for more than two years;
  5. is under the age of 30 and s/he has been found "delinquent" by a juvenile court for an act that would be a disqualifying crime if committed by an adult;
  6. is a fugitive from justice;
  7. has been found guilty of driving while intoxicated three times, one of which must have been within the last year;
  8. is a drug addict;
  9. has a mental disorder and has a history of violent behavior against a person;
  10. has been found to be "incompetent to stand trial" or "not criminally responsible;"
  11. 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;
  12. is under the protection of a court-appointed guardian, unless the guardian is only because of a physical disability;
  13. is subject to an active civil protective order, although not an ex parte one. The order can be from a Maryland court, a court of another state, or a Native American tribe;4 or
  14. s/he is under age 21, although there are some exceptions, listed in section (d) of the statute.5

If any of these situations apply to the abuser, it may be illegal for him/her to have a gun. Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, may restrict an abuser's right to have a gun. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

1 MD Code, Public Safety §§ 5-133(b)(1); 5-101(b-1)
2 MD Code, Public Safety § 5-133(c)(1)(ii)
3 MD Code, Public Safety §§ 5-133(c)(1)(i); 5-101(c)
4 MD Code, Public Safety §§ 5-133(b); 5-101(l)
5 MD Code, Public Safety § 5-133(d)

Guns and Protective Orders

I have a temporary order against the abuser. Can his/her gun be taken away?

As part of a protective order hearing, a judge can 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 you; or
  • serious bodily harm to you, or a threat to cause serious bodily harm to you.1

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.

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

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

Maryland law makes it illegal for someone to have a firearm if there is a valid civil protective order issued against him/her from Maryland (or from a court in another state, tribe, or territory).1

Note: The abuser might not have to give up the gun right away. The law allows for the person who has to turn in the firearm to take the gun to a police station as long as it is unloaded and the person has called ahead to let the police know that s/he is bringing the gun to the police station.2 So, there may be small window of time after the order is issued where the abuser can still legally have the firearm while preparing to bring it to the police.

Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict a person's right to have a gun under certain circumstances. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

1 MD Code, Public Safety § 5-133(b)(12)
2 MD Code, Public Safety § 5-133(e)

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

Depending on the judge in your case, there may be some things you can do to increase the chances that the judge will require that an abuser’s guns are taken away. Keep in mind these tips may or may not result in the outcome that you are hoping for. Every judge is different. However, here are a few suggestions that may help:

  • If the abuser has a gun, tell the judge how many guns s/he has, and if s/he has ever shown you the guns or displayed them as a way to intimidate you and maintain control over you.
  • 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. The form that you will have to fill out to petition for a protective order will have a place where you can request additional protections. You can ask that the abuser’s gun(s) be taken away in that section.
  • 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/her guns while the protection 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.
  • If the gun restriction is granted, check to make sure that it is written on your order before leaving the courthouse.

Guns and Criminal Convictions

If the abuser has been convicted of a crime, can s/he keep or buy a gun?

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

  1. has been convicted of a "disqualifying crime;"1
  2. has been convicted of certain drug-related offenses or firearms-related offenses in Maryland or elsewhere, which are listed in section 5-133(c)(1)(ii) of the Maryland Criminal Code;2
  3. has been convicted of a “crime of violence” in Maryland or elsewhere. “Crimes of violence” include any of the following crimes or an attempt to commit any of them:
    • abduction;
    • arson in the first degree;
    • assault in the first or second degree;
    • burglary in the first, second, or third degree;
    • carjacking and armed carjacking;
    • escape in the first degree;
    • kidnapping;
    • voluntary manslaughter;
    • maiming;
    • mayhem;
    • murder in the first or second degree;
    • rape in the first or second degree;
    • robbery;
    • robbery with a dangerous weapon;
    • sexual offense in the first, second, or third degree;
    • home invasion; and
    • assault with intent to commit any of the above crimes or a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year;3
  4. has been convicted of a violation classified as a common law crime and was sentenced to prison for more than two years;
  5. is under the age of 30 and s/he has been found "delinquent" by a juvenile court for an act that would be a disqualifying crime if committed by an adult;
  6. is a fugitive from justice; or
  7. has been found guilty of driving while intoxicated three times, one of which must have been within the last year.4

Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict a person's right to have a gun under certain circumstances. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

1 MD Code, Public Safety §§ 5-133(b)(1); 5-101(b-1)
2 MD Code, Public Safety § 5-133(c)(1)(ii)
3 MD Code, Public Safety §§ 5-133(c)(1)(i); 5-101(c)
4 MD Code, Public Safety §§ 5-133(b); 5-101(l)

How can I find out if the abuser has been convicted of a crime?

Misdemeanor and felony records are open to the public, but they are not always easy to access. If you know the exact courthouse where the abuser may have been convicted, you can go to the courthouse and ask the clerk of court for access to those records.

Domestic violence misdemeanor and felony records are also kept in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). However, no one other than law enforcement officials and licensed firearm sellers are allowed to search the NICS. Your local police department may be willing to search NICS for you if you ask, but they are not required to do so

To read more about the NICS, please see What will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?

The Abuser Isn't Supposed to Have a Gun...Now What?

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

If the judge orders that the abuser’s gun be taken away as part of a protective order, 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.1 When the protective order expires, the abuser can go to the law enforcement agency that took the gun to get it back.

If the abuser’s gun is taken away by police at the scene of a domestic violence incident, which can happen whether or not the gun was used during the incident, the law enforcement officer will store the gun until the court proceedings related to the incident are over. When the case involving the domestic violence incident is over, the abuser can get the gun back unless s/he has been ordered to surrender the gun in a protection order2 or there is another legal reason that the gun cannot be returned – for example, if the abuser is convicted of a crime based on the domestic violence that would make gun possession illegal.

1 MD Code, Family Law §§ 4-505(a)(2)(viii); 4-506(f)
2 MD Code, Family Law § 4-511

Who 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 Advocates and Shelters 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.1

1United States v. Lippman, 369 F. 3d 1039 (8th Cir. 2004); United States v. Henson, 55 F. Supp. 2d 528 (S.D. W.V. 1999)

What is the penalty for violating state firearm laws?

Under Maryland state law, anyone who violates the laws that make it illegal for certain people to have a gun can be guilty of a felony and punished by prison time between five and 15 years.1 Also, if there is a specific term written into your protective order that says the abuser cannot have a gun, and s/he violates the order by having a gun, s/he may be guilty of violating a protective order. At the discretion of the judge, violations of a protective order may be punished by jail time, a fine, or both.2

1 MD Code, Public Safety § 5-133(c)(2)(i)
2 MD Rules §§ 15-203; 15-205; 15-206

What 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). The National Instant Criminal Background Check System is used by federal firearms licensees (FFLs), such as firearms dealers or pawnbrokers, to instantly determine whether someone is eligible to receive (own, possess, transport) firearms or explosives.1 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 legally 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 and so in those situations, the seller is not looking in the NICS.

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.

1National Criminal Justice Reference Service website

More Information and Where to Get Help

I 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 to buy or have a firearm if a person:

  • 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 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, unless the guardian is only because of a physical disability;1 or
  • s/he is under age 21, although there are some exceptions, listed in section (d) of the statute.2

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 Safety Tips 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 Advocates and Shelters page to find a local domestic violence organization near you.

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

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

I'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 Advocates and Shelters page.
  • You can write to our Email Hotline.