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Maryland’s handgun licensing requirements under review by court

| Oct 7, 2020 | criminal defense

A federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Maryland’s handgun licensing law.

The handgun licensing requirements are part of the Maryland Firearm Safety Act of 2013 (FSA). The FSA was enacted to protect Maryland citizens and law enforcement officers by regulating the sale, transfer and possession of certain types of firearms in the state.

The law applies to the purchase and carry of handguns. A permit is not needed to purchase or carry rifles and shotguns in the state of Maryland.

The FSA provides that a dealer or any other person may not sell, rent, or transfer a handgun to a buyer unless the buyer provides the dealer with a copy of a valid handgun qualification license issued to the buyer by the to Secretary of the State Police.

To obtain a handgun qualification license, a person must:

  1. be at least 21 years old;
  2. be a resident of Maryland;
  3. complete a minimum of 4 hours of firearms safety training within the prior three years; and
  4. not be prohibited by federal or state law from purchasing or possessing a handgun.

The safety training in Maryland necessary to qualify for a handgun is a 16-hour course that must be undertaken at the applicant’s expense. It involves classroom instruction on state firearm law, home firearm safety, handgun mechanisms and operation, as well as a live-fire firearms component that demonstrates the person knows how to safely operate and handle a firearm.

A written application, a nonrefundable application fee to cover the costs to administer the program of up to $50 and proof of having completed the firearms safety training or proof that the applicant qualifies for an exemption must also be provided.

Once the application for a handgun license is received, the Secretary of State Police checks the Criminal Justice Information System Central Repository of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services for a state and national criminal history records check for each applicant. As part of the criminal history check, the applicant must provide legible fingerprints. The applicant is responsible for obtaining his or her fingerprints from an approved vendor at his or her expense. Based on the result of the criminal history records check and the information provided by an applicant, the secretary issues a decision to the applicant within 30 days after receiving a properly completed application.

Only four groups of people are exempt from the licensing requirement:

  1. a licensed firearms manufacturer;
  2. a law enforcement officer or person who is retired in good standing from service with a law enforcement agency of the United States, the state, or a local law enforcement agency of the state;
  3. a member or retired member of the armed forces of the United States or the National Guard; or
  4. a person purchasing, renting, or receiving an antique, curio, or relic firearm, as defined in federal law or in determinations published by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Anyone who fails to comply with the handgun license requirement is guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to imprisonment not exceeding five years or a fine not exceeding $10,000 or both.

If you do not have a handgun permit, you cannot wear or carry a handgun either openly or concealed. Also, without a permit, you can not knowingly transport a handgun in any vehicle travelling on Maryland’s public roads, waterways or airways.

In a decision released late this summer, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the lawsuit challenging the requirements for a handgun permit that earlier had been tossed out of court by a federal district judge. The district court judge said that the plaintiffs – two women who said they wanted to buy a gun but couldn’t because the requirements are difficult and the owner of a gun shop — didn’t have standing to bring the matter before the courts. The appeals court disagreed with the lower court, finding that one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the gun shop, did have the right to pursue the matter in a legal forum. The lawsuit has been sent back to the federal trial court for a hearing on the merits.

If you are facing gun possession charges in Ocean City or Baltimore, you should talk to a criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas J. Maronick have experience handling Ocean City gun possession charges and Baltimore gun possession charges.

The Law Office of Thomas J. Maronick is open during the pandemic and will continue to meet your Ocean City and surrounding areas, Baltimore city and Baltimore county legal needs. We can meet with you remotely if you have access to Zoom. You can contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 202.288.0167, the law office at 410.934.3007 or via our website for a free consultation.

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