Can I Carry a Gun in Maryland?

Some states have enacted what’s called “Constitutional Carry”, meaning that state recognizes the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as all that is required for a U.S. citizen to legally carry a firearm, whether out in the open (called “open carry”) or concealed. Many states are “Shall Issue” states, meaning that if a person meets some basic requirements (for example, isn’t a convicted criminal), they’ll be issued a permit (sometimes called a “concealed carry weapon permit” or just “CCW permit”) to carry a concealed weapon. Some states are a combination, meaning you can open carry without a permit, but need a permit to carry concealed.

Maryland is what’s known as a “May Issue” state when it comes to carrying a regulated firearm, including handguns. That means you need a “good and substantial reason” to wear, carry, or transport a regulated firearm beyond the confines of your own home or real estate you own/manage, or to the gun range.

Good and Substantial Reason

What constitutes a “good and substantial reason”? Well, there has never been an official regulation, rule, or definition published to my knowledge. We must look to the Maryland Wear and Carry Permit application itself and to those who have had their applications approved for clues.

Job Requirement — If you have or have had the kind of job where you have/had to carry a gun as part of that job — I’m talking about police officers, correctional officers, private detectives, security guards, armored car drivers, etc.— then you’re practically guaranteed to receive your Maryland Wear and Carry Permit (hereafter referred to as “MD CCW”).

Owner or Employee of a Business — In our experience, if you own your own business, you have an excellent shot (pun intended) of getting your MD CCW. You MUST be able to prove you have an actual, ongoing business. That means providing copies of any supporting documentation you’ve filed with the State or federal governments (e.g., business/trader’s license, entity formation paperwork, taxes returns, etc.). It also means that your business activities MUST justify you carrying a handgun. For the most part, this means you either regularly make bank deposits or receive cash, checks or other non-electronic forms of payment, or you regularly carry something else very valuable and worth stealing. We are also aware of applications that were approved for employees of a business, where the employer wrote a letter on business letterhead requesting the employee be allowed to carry a firearm and explaining in great detail why. NOTE: The employer MUST prove the person is an actual, current, regular employee.

Professional Activities (i.e., doctor, lawyer) — We know several doctors, therapists, attorneys, and real estate professionals who have received a MD CCW. These individuals regularly met with unfamiliar people in strange places at odd hours. They could also prove that they are currently credentialed to operate in their profession.

Personal Protection — This is the rarest breed of MD CCW permit holder. No one has ever been issued a MD CCW because they “feared for their life” or because “something bad could happen”, or because “the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to keep and bear arms”. That is a matter of settled law. Anyone who ever filed under this category and was actually issued a MD CCW was able to provide proof of a documented threat against them. The documentation was most often tied to a legal proceeding (e.g., a court case) or referred to an official police report where a corroborating witness substantiated the threat.

Other Restrictions

While the “good and substantial reason” is the highest hurdle, it’s not the only one to clear before applying for a MD CCW. You must also be able to honestly answer the following YES / NO questions correctly:

  1. Have you ever been served with an ex-parte or protection order for domestic violence?
  2. Have you ever been ARRESTED for a violation of any criminal law?
  3. Have you ever been CHARGED with a violation of any criminal law?
  4. Have you ever been CONVICTED of a violation of any criminal law?
  5. Have you ever been served with a criminal summons?
  6. Are you currently on parole or probation or mandatory supervision?
  7. Have you ever been confined or committed, including voluntary commitment, to a mental institution or hospital for treatment of a mental disorder or disorders?
  8. Are you addicted to, or have you ever been, or are you currently being treated for alcoholism?
  9. Are you addicted to or have you ever been addicted to controlled dangerous substances?*
  10. Are you currently being treated, or have you ever been treated, for an addiction to controlled dangerous substances?

* Be aware that the Maryland State Police know whether or not you have a medical marijuana card. If you do, you’ll very likely be considered “addicted”.

Training and Other Requirements

If you feel you meet the “good and substantial” test and didn’t trip over any of the other restrictions, then by all means find a course taught by a Maryland Qualified Handgun Instructor from whom you can receive the required training, and who can certify your knowledge of and proficiency with a firearm.

There are only a handful of exemptions from the training requirement (one of which isn’t really an exemption at all):

  1. You are an active law enforcement officer with a law enforcement agency of the United States, the State or any local law enforcement agency in the State.
  2. You are a retired law enforcement officer with a law enforcement agency of the United States, the State or any local law enforcement agency in the State.
  3. You are an activeretired, or honorably discharged member of the armed forces of the United States or the National Guard.
  4. You are a Qualified Handgun Instructor registered with the Maryland State Police.
  5. You have successfully completed a firearms training course given by a Qualified Handgun Instructor.

Bonus for Training with Us

If you take our Personal Protection course (and our Basic Pistol course, if initially applying, in order to meet the 16-hour minimum), we’ll walk you through the entire application process. We’ve never had an application not approved….


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!


Applying for the Maryland Handgun Qualification License (HQL)

As of October 1, 2013, purchasing a handgun in the State of Maryland requires purchasers to possess a valid Handgun Qualification License (HQL), or to qualify for an exemption.

You are exempt from possessing an HQL only if you:

  1. Possess valid credentials or retirement credentials from a law enforcement agency of the United States, the State, or any local law enforcement agency in the State;
  2. Are an active or retired member of the armed forces of the United States or the National Guard, and possesses a valid military identification card; or
  3. Purchase, rent, or receive an antique, curio, or relic firearm, as defined in federal law or in determinations published by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

You are exempt from the HQL training (but must still get the HQL) if you

  1. Have within the last three years satisfactorily completed a firearms training course approved by the Secretary as an exemption from the Firearms Safety Training Course;
  2. Have within the last three years satisfactorily completed a course of instruction in competency and safety in the handling of firearms as prescribed by the Department of Natural Resources under Natural Resources Article, §10-301.1, Annotated Code of Maryland;
  3. Are a Qualified Handgun Instructor;
  4. Are an honorably discharged member of the armed forces of the United States or the National Guard;
  5. Are a former law enforcement officer of the State or a local law enforcement agency in the State who has successfully completed initial law enforcement training;
  6. Are an employee of an armored car company and has a permit issued under Public Safety Article, Title 5, Subtitle 3, Annotated Code of Maryland; or
  7. Lawfully own a regulated firearm.

Note: To purchase a handgun in Maryland, you must also be a Maryland resident, be at least 21 years old, and not be a “prohibited person”. 

Step-by-Step HQL Application Instructions

You have thirty (30) days from the time you start the HQL process to 1) get the fingerprinting and background check done and 2) get the required training (if not exempt). We highly recommend getting the training done first, including your qualification shoot; then going to a LiveScan fingerprinting facility for fingerprinting; then starting the application process, below.

  1. Go to
  2. If you have not done so already, create an account.
  3. Log in using your new account.
  4. Select the “Initial Application” link in the middle of the page.
  5. Select “Firearms Services” as the Program.
  6. Under License Type, select the appropriate dropdown:
    1. HQL Permit Exempt – This option requires you to have a valid Maryland Wear and Carry Permit.
    2. HQL Standard – This option is for anyyone who has not purchased a regulated firearm prior to October 1, 2013, AND requires you to complete a minimum four-hour training course. (If this is you, you can sign up for an upcoming training course if you have not done so already.)
    3. HQL Training Exempt – This option is for anyone who meets one or more of the training exemptions listed above.
  7. Select “Application” as the Application Method.
  8. Select “Start Application” and proceed through each page until you complete the application. The final screen will allow you to ‘Finish’ the application, review your information and submit payment for the license.

Getting Help

If you have any questions about this process, please contact your instructor, contact us through our web site, or message us through our Facebook page.

Firearms Training from a Straight Shooter

That’s it, folks. No mystery to the business name. I want to provide you with firearms training with information you can trust, and that covers not just the basics but adds valuable insights from someone with decades of shooting experience.

Are you looking to get your Maryland Handgun Qualification License (HQL)? Then our one-day NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting Course is perfect for you.

Want to apply for your Maryland Wear and Carry License, sometimes called a CCW permit? Then our two-day MD CCW Course is just what you’re looking for.

Do you need to qualify in an upcoming marksmanship shoot, and need to place more shots on target? Then our private, one-on-one instruction is just what you need.

We’ll be publishing a list of courses that either we’re offering, or at which we are assisting other instructors, so please be sure to bookmark our News page or follow us on Facebook.

We look forward to working with you!