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 See our Firearm Prohibitions policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue. 

Federal law establishes a baseline national standard regarding individuals’ eligibility to acquire and possess firearms. Under federal law, people are generally prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms if they have been convicted of a felony or some domestic violence misdemeanors, or if they are subject to certain court orders related to domestic violence or a serious mental condition. However, federal law merely provides a floor, and has notable gaps that allow individuals who have demonstrated significant risk factors for violence or self-harm to legally acquire and possess guns.

In Maryland, the Secretary of the Maryland State Police must deny a transfer of a “regulated firearm” (generally meaning a handgun or an assault weapon)1 if the prospective purchaser, lessee, or transferee:2

  • Has been convicted of a crime of violence;3
  • Has been convicted of any Maryland-classified felony;
  • Has been convicted of conspiracy to commit a felony;
  • Has been convicted of a common law crime for which the person received a term of imprisonment for more than two years;
  • Has been convicted of any Maryland-classified misdemeanor that carries a statutory penalty of more than two years;
  • Is a fugitive from justice;
  • Is a habitual drunkard;
  • Is an addict or habitual user of any controlled dangerous substance;
  • Is suffering from a mental disorder4 and has a history of violent behavior, unless the purchaser, lessee, or transferee possesses a physician’s certificate stating that he or she is capable of possessing a regulated firearm without undue danger to himself, herself or others;
  • Has been confined for more than 30 consecutive days to a facility5 unless the purchaser, lessee, or transferee possesses a physician’s certificate stating that he or she is capable of possessing a regulated firearm without undue danger to himself, herself or others;
  • Is visibly under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
  • Is under 21 years of age;
  • Is a participant in a “straw purchase;”6
  • Is subject to a “non ex parte civil protective order;”7
  • If under the age of 30 years at the time of the transaction, has been adjudicated delinquent by a juvenile court for an act that would be a disqualifying crime if committed by an adult; or
  • Has not completed a certified firearms safety training course, required to obtain a regulated firearm.8

Firearm prohibitions forpossession of a regulated firearm in Maryland are substantially similar to those regarding transfers of firearms, but do not include prohibitions for being “visibly under the influence of alcohol or drugs” or “a participant in a straw purchase,” and completing a certified firearms safety training course is not required. Moreover, the possession prohibitions include different, more expansive mental health restrictions, generally restricting firearm possession by any person who:

  • Suffers from a mental disorder and has a history of violent behavior against himself, herself or another person (this prohibition does not contain the physician certificate exception);9
  • Has been found incompetent to stand trial;10
  • Has been found “not criminally responsible;”11
  • Has been voluntarily admitted for more than 30 consecutive days to a mental health facility;12
  • Has been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility;13 or
  • Is under the protection of a guardian appointed by a court under Maryland law, except for cases in which the appointment of a guardian is solely a result of a physical disability.14

Maryland also explicitly prohibits any person from possessing aregulated firearm or a standard rifle or shotgun if that person:15

  • Has been convicted of a crime of violence, as defined;16
  • Has been convicted of specified crimes related to controlled substances under Maryland law;17
  • Has been convicted of an offense under the laws of another state or the United States that would constitute a “crime of violence” or one of the controlled substance-related crimes listed above if committed in Maryland;
  • Has been convicted of a disqualifying crime;18
  • Has been convicted of a violation classified as a crime under common law and received a term of imprisonment of more than two years;
  • Is a fugitive from justice;
  • Is a habitual drunkard;
  • Is addicted to or a habitual user of a controlled dangerous substance;
  • Suffers from a mental disorder as defined by state law and has a history of violent behavior against himself, herself or another person;
  • Has been found incompetent to stand trial under state law;
  • Has been found “not criminally responsible” under state law;
  • Has been voluntarily admitted for more than 30 consecutive days to a mental health facility as defined under state law;19
  • Has been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility as defined under state law;
  • Is under the protection of a guardian appointed by a court,20 except for cases in which the appointment of a guardian is solely as a result of a physical disability;
  • Is a respondent against whom: 1) a current non ex parte civil protective order has been entered;21 or 2) an order for protection22 has been issued by a court of another state or a Native American tribe and is in effect; or
  • If under age 30 at the time of possession, has been adjudicated delinquent by a juvenile court for an act that would be a disqualifying crime if committed by an adult.

Generally, a person who is disqualified from owning a rifle or shotgun for mental health reasons may seek relief from the disqualification.23

Maryland law also makes it a crime to fail to comply with the terms of an extreme risk protective order prohibiting firearm possession during the term of the order. See Firearm Relinquishment in Maryland.

Transfers of rifles and shotguns by private sellers (non-firearms dealers) are not subject to background checks, although federal purchaser prohibitions still apply. See Universal Background Checks in Maryland .

 See our Firearm Prohibitions policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue. 

  1. Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 5-101(r); Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 4-301(d)(3), (e).[]
  2. Firearm prohibitions under Maryland law are listed under Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety §§ 5-101(g) and 5-134(b). See also Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 5-122 for information regarding the disapproval of a regulated firearm application.[]
  3. See Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 5-101(b-1), (c) for a list of such crimes of violence.[]
  4. “Mental disorder” is defined under Md. Code Ann., Health-Gen. § 10-101(f)(2) as a “mental illness that so substantially impairs the mental or emotional functioning of an individual as to make care or treatment necessary or advisable for the welfare of the individual or for the safety of the person or property of another.”[]
  5. “Facility” is defined under Md. Code Ann., Health-Gen. § 10-101(e) as any public or private clinic, hospital, or other institution that provides or purports to provide treatment or other services for individuals who have mental disorders.[]
  6. A “straw purchase” is defined under Maryland law as a sale of a regulated firearm in which a person uses another individual, known as a straw purchaser, to: 1) complete the application to purchase a regulated firearm; 2) take initial possession of the regulated firearm; and 3) subsequently transfers the regulated firearm to the person. Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 5-101(v).[]
  7. See Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-506.[]
  8. See Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 5-134(b)(14).[]
  9. Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 5-133(b)(6).[]
  10. Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 5-133(b)(7).[]
  11. Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 5-133(b)(8). See Md. Code Ann., Crim. Proc. § 3-110 for further information.[]
  12. Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 5-133(b)(9).[]
  13. Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 5-133(b)(10).[]
  14. Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 5-133(b)(11).[]
  15. Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety §§ 5-133(b), (c)(1), 5-205(b), 5-206[]
  16. See Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 5-101(c) for the crimes that constitute a “crime of violence.”[]
  17. See Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 5-602 (distributing, possessing with intent to distribute, or dispensing controlled dangerous substances); Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 5-603 (equipment to produce controlled dangerous substance); Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 5-604 (creating or possessing counterfeit substance); Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 5-605 (keeping common nuisance); Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 5-612 (volume dealer of controlled substances); Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 5-613 (drug kingpin); or Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 5-614 (importer of certain controlled dangerous substances).[]
  18. See Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 5-101(b-1).[]
  19. See Md. Code Ann., Health-Gen. § 10-101.[]
  20. See Md. Code Ann., Est. & Trusts §§ 13-201(c) and 13-705[]
  21. See Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-506[]
  22. See Md. Code Ann., Fam. Law § 4-508.1[]
  23. See Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 5-133.3 for details.[]