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Review of Handgun Laws & Penalties in Maryland


To safeguard public health and safety, the State of Maryland has strict criminal penalties for numerous types of gun crimes. Unlike certain places, Maryland institutes certain requirements for the purchase and use of firearms, including handguns.

Does Maryland Require Permits for Handguns?

The general requirement for handgun permits appears in Maryland Code, Public Safety Section 5-303. This section requires every person to have a valid permit before:

  • Carrying a handgun;
  • Wearing a handgun; or
  • Transporting a handgun.

What is the Maryland Definition of a Handgun?

The definition of a handgun appears in Maryland Code, Criminal Law Section 4-201. Under this section, the term handgun includes:

  • Pistols;
  • Revolvers; and
  • Other firearms capable of being carried in a concealed fashion.

In this context, the term handgun includes short-barreled rifles and shotguns. These weapons generally have one or more barrels that are shorter than usual, measuring between 16 and 18 inches; or, these short-barreled weapons have an overall length of less than 26 inches achieved by modifying a standard rifle or shotgun.

Under the Maryland law, the term handgun does not include standard length rifles or shotguns. The term handgun also excludes antique firearms, which are historical or replica weapons that do not fire conventional ammunition.

Is it a Crime to Violate Maryland Handgun Laws?

Maryland Code, Criminal Law Section 4-203 details the specific laws governing handguns. Under this section, it is unlawful for any person to openly or in a concealed fashion:

  • Wear, carry, or transport a handgun in public; or
  • Wear, carry, or transport a handgun in a vehicle on the public roads, waterways or airways.

Maryland law also establishes separate criminal offenses for various handgun violations. For example, Section 4-203 makes it unlawful to wear, carry, or transport a handgun:

  • On public school property anywhere in Maryland;
  • Intending to injure or kill another person; or
  • While the weapon is loaded with ammunition.

That being said, Section 4-203 does carve out several exceptions for law enforcement officers and other approved situations. In these exceptional cases, it can be lawful to wear, carry, or transport a handgun.

How Does Maryland Punish Handgun Law Violations?

Section 4-203 also provides the Maryland punishment for handgun law violations. Any person who violates these handgun laws is guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to the following penalties:

  • First Offense — Imprisonment for 30 days to three years and criminal fines between $250 and $2,500;
  • Second Offense — Imprisonment for one to 10 years and criminal fines between $250 and $2,500; or
  • Third or Subsequent Offense — Imprisonment for three to 10 years and criminal fines between $250 and $2,500.

That being said, Section 4-203 establishes special considerations for certain types of handgun law violations. For example, the penalties can escalate for violations involving school property, harmful intent, or loaded firearms.

Let Us Help You Today

If you have legal questions about weapon crimes in Maryland, it can be exceedingly constructive to contact an accomplished criminal defense attorney. The Bel Air gun crimes attorneys at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered in Bel Air, Maryland, have more than 60 years of combined legal experience in criminal and family law, including numerous types of weapon crimes. If you need legal help, contact us today for an initial consultation.


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