Weapons Charges in Maryland

Learn about Maryland’s laws on possessing, carrying, and using handguns and other dangerous weapons.

Maryland has a number of laws that regulate who may carry handguns and other dangerous weapons—and where—as well as which types of weapons are prohibited. This article summarizes these laws and the penalties for violating them.

Carrying a Handgun Without a Permit

Unless you have a Maryland handgun permit, it’s illegal to carry a handgun—either openly or concealed, on your body or in a vehicle on a public road or parking lot. But you can’t get a permit if you:

  • are a minor (under the age of 18)
  • have been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor with a sentence of more than a year in prison (unless you’ve been pardoned or had your gun rights restored under federal law)
  • are an alcoholic or habitually use controlled drugs without medical direction
  • have violent tendencies (as revealed in an investigation)
  • haven’t completed the required training, or
  • don’t have a good reason to carry a handgun.

The permit requirement doesn’t apply if you’re on your own property or business. Other exceptions include law enforcement officials, supervisors who are authorized to have handguns at work, and those who are transporting unloaded handguns in enclosed cases to certain places (such as between your home and business) or for certain purposes (like target practice or gun exhibitions).

Unless you meet one of the exceptions, carrying a handgun without a permit is a misdemeanor in Maryland, punishable by 30 days to three years imprisonment and/or a fine of $250 to $2,500. The punishment increases for repeat violators or those who were carrying the weapon with the purpose of injuring someone. (Md. Code, Crim. Law § 4-203; Md. Code, Pub. Safety § 5-303 (2019).)

Carrying Any Dangerous Weapons

Maryland also makes it a crime to carry a dangerous weapon other than a handgun concealed on your body unless you:

  • have a handgun permit
  • are carrying the weapon as a reasonable precaution against perceived danger, or
  • are an authorized official entitled to have the weapon as part of your official equipment.

It’s also illegal to carry a dangerous weapon openly if you intend to hurt someone illegally with it.

The law defines dangerous weapons as including pepper mace, bowie knives, star knives, switchblades, nunchakus, brass knuckles, and razors. Although the statute doesn’t specifically mention stun guns or Tasers, a court could consider them dangerous weapons if they were used in a dangerous manner.

Unlawful carrying of a dangerous weapon is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to three years in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000. The court must impose the longest prison sentence if the evidence showed that you were carrying the weapon in order to injure someone. (Md. Code, Crim. Law § 4-101 (2019).)

Maryland's Red Flag Law

Under Maryland’s “red flag law,” courts may issue “extreme risk protective orders” (ERPOs) prohibiting gun possession by individuals (known as “respondents”) who’ve been identified as posing an immediate danger of injuring themselves or others with firearms. In Maryland, petitions for these orders may be filed by a range of people close to the respondents (including relatives, household members, and intimate partners), as well as law enforcement officers and certain health care professionals. If the court issues a temporary ERPO, it will only remain in effect until a hearing where the respondent can appear and contest the order. Anyone who violates an ERPO may be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000, or up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500 if they’ve already had a conviction for the same crime. (Md. Code, Public Safety, §§ 5-601—5-610 (2019).)

Deadly Weapons at Schools

Maryland outlaws possession of firearms, knives, or any deadly weapons on public school property, except for those who:

  • are on duty as law enforcement or school security officers
  • are retired or off-duty law enforcement officers who are authorized to carry concealed handguns and are parents or visitors of students at the school
  • are participating in organized shooting education courses, or
  • have been invited by the school to put on a historical weapons demonstration.

The penalty for this misdemeanor is up to three years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $1,000. (Md. Code, Crim. Law § 4-102 (2019).)

Possession of Banned Weapons

Certain types of weapons are prohibited in Maryland, including

  • assault weapons (unless they were legally purchased before June 1994 for pistols or October 2013 for long guns)
  • machine guns, and
  • bombs, grenades, Molotov cocktails, poison gas, and other destructive devices.

Penalties for possessing these banned weapons range from a maximum of three years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine for possession of an assault gun to a maximum of 25 years and/or a $250,000 fine for possession of a destructive device. (Md. Code, Crim. Law §§ 4-303, 4-306, 4-404, 4-405, 4-501, 4-503 (2019).)

Criminal Use or Storage of Guns

Use of a gun while committing a violent crime or any felony is a misdemeanor, punishable by five to 20 years in prison, in addition to the penalty for the underlying crime. (Md. Code, Crim. Law § 4-204 (2019).)

You could face a fine of up to $1,000 for the misdemeanor of leaving a loaded firearm where you know (or should know) that an unsupervised child under age 16 would get access to it. (Md. Code, Crim. Law § 4-104 (2019).)

Local Ordinances

Counties and municipalities in Maryland may have ordinances that regulate firing guns in certain places (except at firing ranges) or possession of firearms by minors or within 100 yards of parks, schools, and some other public places. Otherwise, however, local governments may not enact new regulations (after 1984) that regulate gun possession or ownership. (Md. Code, Crim. Law § 4-209 (2019).)

Getting a Lawyer’s Help

You should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible if you’re facing criminal charges for weapons possession or use. An experienced criminal defense attorney can explain how Maryland law applies to your situation and help you put together the strongest defense possible. And if you’ve been served with an ERPO, a lawyer can help protect your rights at the hearing and, if necessary, appeal the judge’s decision.

Look Out for Legal Changes

Because states can change their laws at any time, you may want to check the current Maryland statutes. Court decisions may also affect how laws are interpreted and applied—another reason to consult an attorney if you're concerned about actual or potential weapons charges.

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