Buying a Handgun in Maryland

The process of buying a handgun in the State of Maryland is pretty straightforward. We get asked about it often by prospective students who want to take a class but aren’t sure they’re able to own a gun. Why take a class if you can’t buy or possess a gun, right?

Here’s what you need to be aware of in advance to make sure that you’re able to purchase a handgun, and to make the process go as smoothly as possible.

Who is a ‘Prohibited Person’ in Maryland?

The first thing to determine is whether or not you are prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm in Maryland. The Maryland Code of Regulations (COMAR, for short) defines who may not purchase a regulated firearm, including handguns.

The link above gives you the full (and current) definition. I’ll summarize the main points, but keep in mind, I’m a firearms trainer, not a lawyer — you should consider this info a starting point; it is not a legal opinion.

  1. You can’t be a “habitual drunkard” or “addicted to or a habitual user of a controlled dangerous substance” (i.e., illegal drugs). The Maryland State Police (MSP) have a Frequently Asked Questions page that specifically defines these terms. Short answer: If haven’t been found guilty two or more times of a crime involving drugs or alcohol, you should be able to purchase/possess a regulated firearm in Maryland. Note that “found guilty” doesn’t appear to include citations for non-criminal possession. However, be aware that the MSP are watching very closely, and if you have a medical marijuana card, you may be disqualified as a “habitual user”.
  2. You cannot be a fugitive from justice and purchase a regulated firearm. If you’re wanted by the police, please don’t try to buy a firearm of any kind. Period.
  3. You cannot have been convicted of nor received probation before judgement (PBJ) for committing a violent crime, a felony of any kind, or a misdemeanor that resulted in two or more years of jail time. You cannot have had a protective order issued against you, either. There are a few specific circumstances spelled out in the statute; read it and consult an attorney before attempting to purchase a regulated firearm in Maryland.
  4. The statute illustrates specific circumstances, but I’ll grossly oversimplify and say that you cannot have mental or emotional issues, treated or otherwise. I think we’ve all seen plenty of evidence that bad things happen when you mix an unstable person and firearms. Please consult the statute and an attorney before attempting to purchase a firearm.
  5. Lastly, unless you’re in the military or your job requires you to have a Conceal and Carry permit, or you’re traveling to a firearms marksmanship training class, or you’re in the act of defending someone’s life in a residence, you must be 21 years of age to even possess a regulated firearm, much less purchase one, in Maryland.

Do You Need a License to Buy a Handgun?

In 2013, Maryland began requiring purchasers of regulated firearms to have a Maryland Handgun Qualification License. We’ve written about the HQL before, so we won’t cover that ground again here, except to say that there are only a handful of exemptions for the HQL itself, and a few training exemptions. Read our article to see if you qualify for any of them. If not, we hope to see you in our classroom soon!