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Maryland Handgun Laws

Below is a brief overview of the Maryland state laws governing handguns. This is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified Maryland handgun lawyer, which you can learn more about here.

Definitions Section 4-201

A handgun is defined in Section 4-201(c) as:

  • A pistol, revolver, or other firearm that can be concealed on the person, including a short-barreled shotgun and a short-barreled rifle, but not including:
  • A shotgun, rifle, or antique firearm (firearm manufactured before 1899 or a replica of such a firearm).

A law enforcement officer is defined in Section 4-201(d) as:

  • Any full-time member of a police force or law enforcement unit of the U.S., state, county, or local government, or a full-time member of a police force or other unit of a municipal corporation responsible for preventing and detecting crime, as well as enforcing the laws.
  • Any part-time member of such a police force or unit who is certified as trained and qualified in the use of handguns.
  • Any fire or explosive investigator of Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, Anne Arundel County, the City of Annapolis, Worcester County, or the City of Hagerstown.

A short-barreled rifle is defined in Section 4-201(f) as a rifle that has one or more barrels less than 16 inches long or a weapon that was modified from a rifle to have an overall length of less than 26 inches. A short-barreled shotgun is defined in Section 4-201(g) as a shotgun that has

  • One or more barrels under 18 inches in length, or
  • A weapon that has been modified from a shotgun to have an overall length of less than 26 inches.

Wearing, Carrying, or Transporting a Handgun Section 4-203

Maryland state laws prescribe strict laws regulating the manner, location, and circumstances under which handguns can be worn, carried, and transported.

Exceptions

The first exception to the violations below, pursuant to Section 4-203(b)(1) is for individuals who are (1) wearing, transporting, or carrying a handgun, and (2) while on active assignment and part of law enforcement or while authorized at the time and under the circumstances as part of the individual’s official equipment, and the individual is one of the following:

  • A law enforcement official of the U.S., Maryland, a county, or a city of Maryland
  • A member of the armed forces of the U.S. or of the National Guard – while on duty or traveling to or from duty
  • A law enforcement official of another state or subdivision of another state who is temporarily in Maryland on official business
  • A correctional officer or warden of a Maryland correctional facility
  • A sheriff or full-time assistant or deputy sheriff of the state of Maryland
  • A temporary or part-time sheriff’s deputy

The second exception, pursuant to Section 4-203(b)(2), covers individuals (1) who are transporting, wearing, or carrying a handgun (2) with a permit to do so. The third exception, under Section 4-203(b)(3), covers individuals (1) carrying a handgun on the person or in a vehicle (2) if the handgun is unloaded and secured (carried in an enclosed case or an enclosed holster) (3) while transporting the handgun to or from:

  • The place of legal purchase or sale
  • A bona fide repair shop
  • A place of business or residence of the individual, but only when the business is operated and owned substantially by the person

The exception also covers, under Section 4-203(b)(4), an individual (1) transporting, carrying, or wearing a handgun (2) if the handgun is unloaded and secured (3) and the individual is currently involved in, on the way to, or returning from one of the following activities:

  • An organized military activity
  • A target shoot
  • Formal or informal target practice
  • A sport shooting event
  • Hunting
  • A Department of Natural Resources-sponsored firearms and hunter safety class
  • Trapping (also known as trap shooting or skeet shooting)
  • A dog obedience training class or show

The exception also covers a bona fide gun collector moving part or all of his or her collection from place to place for the purpose of a private or public exhibition if the handguns are unloaded and carried in an enclosed case or an enclosed holster. Section 4-203(b)(5).

Under Section 4-203(b)(6), the exemptions extend to any person (1) wearing, transporting, or carrying handguns on (2) real estate that the person owns or leases or resides, or within the confines of a business establishment the person owns or leases. Section 4-203(b)(6).

The exception also extends to a person who is a (1) supervisory employee (2) carrying, wearing or transporting a handgun (3) if the person is doing so in the course of employment, within the confines of the business establishment where the person is employed, and with authorization by the owner or manager of the business establishment. Section 4-203(b)(7).

A person meets the exceptions if the person is (1) carrying or transporting (2) a signal pistol or other visual distress signal (3) if it is approved by the U.S. Coast Guard in a vessel on Maryland waterways, or (4) if it is unloaded and carried in an enclosed case while in a vehicle. Section 4-203(b)(8).

Lastly, a person meets the exceptions if the person (1) is carrying, wearing, or transporting a handgun and (2) the person is carrying a court order requiring the person to surrender the handgun, (3) if:

  • The handgun is not loaded,
  • The person notified the law enforcement unit, barracks, or station of the fact that the person is transporting the handgun in accordance with the court order, and,
  • The person transports the handgun directly to the law enforcement unit, barracks, or station where the person was ordered to surrender the weapon. Section 4-203(b)(9).

Generally

It is illegal for a person to (1) unlawfully (meaning outside the exceptions) (2) wear, carry, or transport a handgun– whether concealed or open– (3) on or about the person. Section 4-203(a)(1)(i).

In a Vehicle

It is illegal for a person to (1) unlawfully (2) and knowingly (3) carry, transport, or wear a handgun– whether concealed or not – (4) in a vehicle on a road, parking lot generally used by the public, highway, waterway or airway in the state of Maryland. Section 4-203(a)(ii).

School Property or With Intent to Harm

It is an even more serious offense for a person to violate either of the two subsections mentioned above on public school property (Section 4-203(a)(1)(iii)) or with the deliberate intent of injuring or killing another person (Section 4-203(a)(1)(iv)).

Presumptions

Moreover, it should be noted that any person who is transporting a handgun in a vehicle as described above is presumed (though it is a rebuttable presumption) to be doing so knowingly. Section 4-203(a)(2).

Penalties

If an individual has no prior convictions of weapon-related crimes or committing a crime with a handgun and the individual was not charged with possessing a handgun on school property, then the individual is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by 30 days to three years in prison and/or a fine of $250 to $2,500. Section 4-203(c)(2)(i). However, with all else being the same, if the individual was charged with wearing, carrying, or transporting a handgun on school property, then the individual is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by 90 days to three years imprisonment and a fine of $250 to $2,500. Section 4-203(c)(2)(iii). If an individual has a prior conviction of a weapon-related crime (see Section 4-101 and Section 4-102 above) or a prior conviction of possessing a handgun in commission of a crime, then an individual violating this section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by one year to 10 years in prison. Section 4-203(c)(3). If the individual violated the section prohibiting handguns on school property and meets the other requirements outlined in this paragraph, then the individual faces three to 10 years in prison. If an individual has at least two prior convictions of a weapon-related crime (see Section 4-101 and Section 4-102 above) or of possessing a handgun in commission of a crime (see Section 4-204 below), and the individual violated this section then the individual faces three to 10 years in prison. Section 4-203(c)(4)(i)(1). If the individual has at least two prior convictions as described above and violated the subsections prohibiting handguns on school property or with intent to harm, then the individual faces five to 10 years in prison. Section 4-203(4)(i)(2).

How a Maryland Handgun Lawyer Can Help

Unlike guns used for hunting (which are not heavily regulated) or assault weapons (which are essentially prohibited outside of specific circumstances), handguns are the subject of numerous complex laws that set out exactly how and when it is lawful to possess, carry, and own handguns. As a result, the advice and insight of a Maryland handgun lawyer is vital if you have questions about the law or if you are charged with a violation of handgun laws.