New Changes to Gun Laws: Wearing, Carrying or Transporting Handguns in Maryland
Do you own a handgun, or multiple handguns? Do you live in the state of Maryland? If you do not live in Maryland, do you ever travel into Maryland? If you answered yes to any of these questions, new changes to Maryland’s gun laws apply to you.
The Second Amendment of the Constitution sets forth the right to bear arms. However, it is important to remember that this right is not without limits. As a responsible gun owner, it is essential to constantly educate yourself on the gun laws of your state and the states you frequently travel. It is not an uncommon occurrence for lawful gun owners to face criminal charges for not properly following state rules and regulations. Keeping that in mind, Maryland recently adapted its gun laws regarding wearing, carrying, or transporting handguns.
What Constitutes a Handgun?
For a weapon to be considered a handgun, “it must be a firearm, or it must be readily convertible into a firearm,” and it must also have the capability to discharge ammunition. Howell v. State, 278 Md. 389, 396 (1976). Specifically, this includes, but is not limited to, pistols, revolvers, short-barreled shotguns, short-barreled rifles, or other firearms that are capable of being concealed on your person or in your vehicle. Md. Crim. Law §4-201(c). Furthermore, if a weapon is recovered by law enforcement, its operability (ability to discharge ammunition) may be established by mere circumstantial evidence. Mangum v. State, 342 Md. 392 (1996).
Wearing, Carrying, or Transporting Handguns
Under Maryland Criminal Law §4-203, it is illegal to knowingly wear, carry or transport a handgun on your person or in your vehicle unless certain rules and regulations are followed. When transporting a legal handgun in Maryland, the gun must be unloaded and stored in a case. In addition, there are specific requirements for when and where you are allowed to wear, carry, or transport a gun (i.e., to and from the shooting range). However, as a rule of thumb, when carrying or transporting a handgun, it should always be unloaded and stored in a case.
Moreover, even if you were unaware that the gun was in your car, or you forgot it was there, you could still face criminal charges. If you are transporting a gun, Maryland Criminal Law §4-203 presumes that you have knowledge of that fact. Therefore, the defense that you were unaware the gun was in the car may not be enough to dismiss or reduce the charges.
Before wearing, carrying, or transporting a gun, regardless of whether you have a permit, ensure that you are up to date on the current rules and regulations.
In August of this year, the Court of Appeals of Maryland, which is the highest appellate court in the state, reached a decision that changes how violations of the Maryland statute regarding wearing, carrying, or transporting handguns (Md. Crim. Law §4-203) are prosecuted. The Court ruled that illegally wearing, carrying, or transporting a handgun is a strict liability offense. Lawrence v. State, 475 Md. 384, 390 (2021). What this means is that the State does not have to prove mens rea (intent or state of mind) in order to convict a person of violating Md. Criminal Law §4-203; instead, the act of violating the statute is enough for a conviction.
Additionally, this change in the law applies to people who reside outside of Maryland as well. So, if you are traveling through Maryland you must abide by Maryland’s rules and regulations regarding handguns. This is true even if you have a permit for another state, or even if you don’t need a permit at all. For example, there have been numerous cases of people from surrounding states, i.e., Delaware, Virginia, and West Virginia, who have been arrested for illegally transporting a weapon in Maryland; many of whom had legal conceal carry permits for other states.
The importance of this change cannot be stressed enough. The lack of a mens rea requirement drastically reduces the available criminal defenses. In order to protect yourself and prevent possible violations, make certain you know where your guns are located, how they are being transported, and that you are following all of the rules and regulations of the state you are traveling in.
What are the Consequences for Illegally Wearing, Carrying, or Transporting a Handgun?
The consequences for illegally wearing, carrying, or transporting handguns are unforgiving. If arrested, you could face up to three (3) years in jail and a $2,500 fine.
Moving forward, remember to keep this information in mind when wearing, carrying, or transporting handguns in Maryland, especially if you are traveling from another state. Likewise, help your friends by informing them of this change to Maryland’s gun laws; you might even prevent one of them from facing criminal charges.
If you or someone you love is facing charges for illegally wearing, carrying, or transporting a handgun in the state of Maryland, reach out to us today. The team at Craig M. Kadish and Associates has your back. Schedule a consultation today.