How To Lose Your Gun Rights in Maryland

Maryland's laws are among the strictest for gun owners in the nation

By Benjy Schirm, J.D. | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on May 1, 2023 Featuring practical insights from contributing attorney James B. Astrachan

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Out of concern for public safety, legislators in Maryland have enacted laws that restrict the ownership and purchasing rights of guns by individuals that have been deemed disqualified.

“No one understands, or most people don’t understand, what you can and can’t do, what the possibilities are,” says Baltimore attorney James Astrachan. “Everyone gets so emotionally charged; you have gun nuts on both sides of the argument. One group is saying, ‘No guns.’ The other side says, ‘No restrictions,’ and everybody is wrong.”

What Is the Law?

In 2008, the Supreme Court of the United States held that it is unconstitutional to categorically ban handguns. At the same time, the Court noted that the Second Amendment is not unlimited: “The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

In 2022, the Supreme Court revisited gun laws and formulated a new standard. In order to be found constitutional, gun restrictions must be comparable to restrictions historically adopted in the United States. This new standard takes an expansive view of the right to bear arms and makes it more challenging for states to impose restrictions for public safety.

Astrachan says the state of Maryland has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. It has enacted a number of laws to restrict gun rights for those who are deemed disqualified, including:

  • Being convicted of a disqualifying crime: a crime of violence, a classified felony, conspiracy to commit a felony, a crime that resulted in imprisonment of more than two years, or adjudicated delinquent by a juvenile court for one of the above crimes while under 30 years old.
  • If one is considered a: fugitive from justice, a habitual drunkard, or an addict or habitual user of a controlled substance or dangerous substance.
  • If one is suffering from a mental disorder and has a history of violent behavior, has been confined due to a mental disorder for 30 days or more, or has been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility as defined under state law.
  • If one has been found incompetent to stand trial, or “not criminally responsible” under state law.
  • If one is under the protection of a guardian as appointed by the court (with an exception if guardianship is based solely on a physical disability).
  • If one is the subject of a civil protection order or an order for protection that has been issued by the court.

There is also a law that requires everyone who legally buys a handgun to earn a handgun qualification license. “You have to be fingerprinted, you have to take a course, you have to pay a fee, you have to pass shooting tests,” Astrachan says. “It takes an entire day and costs $300, so many of the people impulse-buying a gun are out of the market.”

If one is found in possession of a handgun without this license, they can also be disqualified from owning a gun in the future.

In Maryland, now, 70 percent of the guns used in crimes are coming across the state border. We have the strictest gun laws in the nation, but we still had 360-plus murders from handguns last year. It only works if you get a national presence on this type of law.

James B. Astrachan

Have These Regulations Worked To Lessen Gun Violence?

Many would point to the lack of efficacy of these laws as a failure of any law relating to gun-control. But that may not be the full picture. “In Maryland, now, 70 percent of the guns used in crimes are coming across the state border,” says Astrachan. “We have the strictest gun laws in the nation, but we still had 360-plus murders from handguns last year.”

Unfortunately, he adds, “It only works if you get a national presence on this type of law.”

What Can Be Done if One Is Disqualified?

If one is disqualified from buying or possessing a gun, the rights can be reinstated only under very specific conditions.

For example, if the reason for disqualification is criminal conviction or criminal record, one may have that crime pardoned, expunged or sealed—which all have differing effects on the rights of the individual.

Or, if one is disqualified due to a mental disorder, illness or episode, they can have their gun rights reinstated with a physician’s certificate stating the individual is capable of possessing a regulated firearm without undue danger to himself, herself or others.

If you or someone you know has been disqualified for any reason—like violent crime—contact a reputable and experienced criminal defense attorney. He or she can help you regain your constitutional rights in the proper manner through the justice system.

For more information on this area of law, see our overview of criminal defense.

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