Maryland law does not establish a clear process to ensure the surrender or removal of guns from most people who become legally prohibited from keeping their firearms. However, Maryland has enacted mandatory laws requiring the relinquishment of firearms by people subject to domestic violence-related firearm prohibitions, as well as an extreme risk protection order law. See these pages for more information about the relinquishment processes in the domestic violence and extreme risk protection order contexts.
Removal of Illegally Owned Handguns and Assault Weapons
A regulated firearm (handgun or assault weapon) or an assault pistol that is sold, rented, transferred, possessed, received or purchased in violation of state law governing such firearms may be seized by law enforcement as “contraband” and disposed of.1 A handgun that is “worn, carried, or transported” in violation of state laws governing the carrying and transporting of handguns is subject to seizure and forfeiture by law enforcement.2 Ammunition found “in the immediate vicinity” of such a handgun is also subject to seizure.3 Moreover, ammunition “worn, carried, or transported” in violation of state laws governing the carrying and transporting of handguns or penalizing the commission of a crime with a handgun is also subject to seizure and forfeiture.4
A law enforcement officer may conduct a limited search, without a search warrant, if he or she reasonably believes a person: 1) may be wearing, carrying or transporting a handgun in violation of state law; and 2) is a danger to law enforcement or others due to the possession of the handgun.5 The officer must also believe it is impracticable to obtain a search warrant and that “swift measures” are necessary to discover whether the person is wearing, carrying or transporting a handgun.6 If, subsequent to a search, the officer finds that the person is wearing, carrying or transporting a handgun, he or she may demand evidence that the person is lawfully permitted to do so. If no evidence is produced, the officer may seize the handgun and arrest the person.7
After law enforcement seizes a handgun, the officers must attempt to locate the owner.8 Law enforcement has discretion to either return the handgun to the owner or notify the owner that he or she may apply within 30 days for a review to determine whether the owner: 1) “knew or should have known that the handgun was worn, carried, transported, or used” in violation of state laws governing the carrying and transporting of handguns; and 2) is legally permitted to possess the handgun.9
Under Maryland law, if a mental health facility hearing officer enters an order for involuntary commitment and the hearing officer determines that the individual cannot safely possess a firearm based on credible evidence of dangerousness to others, the hearing officer must order the individual who is subject to the involuntary commitment to: 1) surrender any firearms in the individual’s possession to law enforcement; and 2) refrain from purchasing a firearm unless specifically granted relief.10
Maryland provides that a court may issue a warrant to search for and seize a machine gun that is possessed in violation of state law regulating possession of machine guns.11
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- Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 5-135. See also Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 4-304.
- Md. Code Ann., Crim. Proc. § 13-201(1).
- Md. Code Ann., Crim. Proc. § 13-201(2)(ii).
- Md. Code Ann., Crim. Proc. § 13-201.
- Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 4-206(a)(1).
- Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 4-206(b).
- Md. Code Ann., Crim. Proc. § 13-203(a).
- Md. Code Ann., Crim. Proc. § 13-203(a)(2), (3), (b). If the owner of a seized handgun timely requests a review, law enforcement must informally review whether the owner knew or should have known of the unlawful use of the handgun. Md. Code Ann., Crim. Proc. § 13-204. If the review results in a decision favorable to the owner, law enforcement must return the handgun to the owner if he or she is legally permitted to possess it. If the handgun is needed as evidence in a criminal case or investigation, it must be returned promptly when the case or investigation ends. If the informal review results in an unfavorable conclusion for the owner, within 30 days of notification of such determination the owner may petition for review by the District Court. Id. See Md. Code Ann., Crim. Proc. § 13-205 for information on seized handguns in criminal cases.
- Md. Code Ann., Health, Gen. § 10-632.
- Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 4-402(c).