Maryland Wear and Carry Permits

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Last updated 5/24/2022

Maryland has a blanket ban on the carriage and transport of handguns within the state, with exceptions. One of those exceptions is for those who've been issued a license, known as a Wear and Carry Permit, which is required to be able to lawfully carry a handgun concealed or openly in public for self-defense. This permit is described in State law under Maryland Public Safety Article §§ 5-301 through 5-314 and issued by the Maryland State Police (MSP) through its Licensing Division (MSPLD). Applicants for a permit must satisfy several requirements before being considered qualified. The process typically takes at least 90-days for most applicants and unlike the vast majority of other places within the United States, Maryland is one of only eight states where applicants must demonstrate "good and substantial reason," or a special need to be granted a license or permit to carry a handgun in public. Forty-two states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico issue permits to carry to all those able to pass a background check without any such need. Furthermore, as of 2022, 25 states require no permit at all to legally carry a concealed firearm in public.

"Good and substantial reason" has been the subject of decades worth of litigation and debate, but for now, those who the MSP generally deem to have it are business owners and endorsed employees, those with top-secret clearances, some public figures (lawmakers, for example), law enforcement officers, private detectives, and few others. Victims of targeted crime or who have specific threats of violence against them might also be eligible for a permit. Though carry permits are rare in Maryland, with between only 24,000 to 27,000 or so being active at any given time, they are not entirely impossible to acquire and Maryland Shall Issue has been successful in helping many applicants get their permits.

Of course, no subjectively deemed "good and substantial reason" should be required for one to be able to protect themselves with the "quintessential self-defense weapon," (quoting the majority opinion in the landmark 2nd Amendment US Supreme Court case, District of Columbia v. Heller (2008)) but this is the current state of things in Maryland. MSI is currently a party in Call v. Jones III, a challenge in the federal court system against Maryland's permitting scheme. This case is currently before the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and is being held in abeyance (on pause) pending the outcome of New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen. At issue in that case is New York's "proper cause" requirement (identical to "good and substantial reason") for the issuance of a carry permit and restrictions placed upon the permit.

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Who is Eligible for a Permit?

Applicants for a Wear and Carry Permit must be at least 21 years of age and not be prohibited by state or federal law from possessing firearms.
The Maryland State Police Licensing Division (MSPLD) recognizes the following categories of people as having "good and substantial reason" to be issued a permit:

Businesses Owners and Certain Endorsed Employees
Business owners are typically issued permits upon demonstrating that they operate an active business. This usually requires the applicant to have a business bank account and can show that it is conducting business transactions and deposits. An applicant might also be someone who has been endorsed by their employer for a permit based on the nature of the work they do, such as picking up or depositing cash or other goods and valuables.

Assumed Risk Professionals
Judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and other professionals who could be targeted because of the dangers involved with their work.

Top-Secret Clearance Holders
Those with active top-secret government clearances are generally eligible so long as they are able to prove they hold such a clearance.

"Personal Protection"
Those who can demonstrate that they are specifically at risk of imminent danger or targeted by others wishing to do them harm.

Bail Bondsmen, Security Guards, Special Police, Private Detectives, Armored Car Drivers, and Private Security Officers
Those with these tasks and jobs are typically eligible for carry permits so long as they are able to verify with documentation the work and duties they perform.

Training

Maryland Wear and Carry Permit Training must be completed before submission of an application. These classes must consist of material on state firearm law, home firearm safety, handgun mechanisms and operation, and a firearms qualification component that demonstrates the applicant’s proficiency and use of the firearm. Unless otherwise exempt from the training requirements, an applicant will need to seek an MSP Qualified or Certified Handgun Instructor and complete a 16-hour training course for an initial application with a minimum 70% accuracy rating by the applicant during the shooting portion of the class. These classes often run anywhere from $250 to $400 and up. An 8-hour course will be required upon renewal of an issued permit.

Wear and Carry Permit Course of Fire (See Basic Practical Handgun Course on page 3)
Certified Qualification Score Sheet

Who is training exempt?

  • a law enforcement officer or a person who is retired in good standing from service with a law enforcement agency of the United States, the State, or any local law enforcement agency in the State
  • a member, retired member, or honorably discharged member of the armed forces of the United States or the National Guard
  • a qualified handgun instructor 

Submitting the Application

Applications for Wear and Carry Permits can only be submitted online via the Maryland State Police Licensing Portal: https://bit.ly/3rrg136
"Good and substantial reason” must be addressed in the application with additional documentation written by the applicant. It is better to provide an over-abundance of information rather than too little – attachments for this section are encouraged!

Also required with the submission of the application:
• Proof of training or training exemption
LIVESCAN fingerprints receipt
• A non-refundable application fee of $75 paid via credit or debit card
• Two recent passport-style photos
• Contact information of current spouse, significant other, co-inhabitant, or most recent partner within the last five years
• Contact information of at least three unrelated references who've known the applicant for at least two years

If the initial background checks go well, the applicant will then have a face-to-face interview with an MSP trooper or investigator who will ask a variety of personal questions. The interviewer will talk with contact their references and will make a recommendation concerning the permit application. Then, the Licensing Division will issue their final determination and advise the applicant.

Appeals Process

For those denied outright by the MSP, or if a permit contains unacceptable restrictions, options are available to seek the issuance or modification of a permit. Within 10 days of denial, one must appeal in writing to either the MSP to ask for an "Informal Review" or to the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). Appeals may also be taken to the OAH within 10 days of any decision of the MSP after an Informal Review.

Maryland State Police Informal Review
The MSP will allow applicants to present any further information regarding their denial to more senior management within the Licensing Division. Unless provided significant new information at that time, it is unlikely MSP's initial decision is affected.

Maryland OAH Formal Appeal
OAH hearings are run by Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) and are quasi-formal trials with rules and procedures. Additional evidence can be submitted at these hearings. In an OAH proceeding, the focus is on whether the MSP’s decision should be sustained and the applicant bears the burdens of proof and persuasion. The ALJ gives deference to the MSP’s determination. An attorney is not legally required but is necessary as a practical matter. Decisions of the ALJ can be appealed to circuit court.

Places and Times In Which Firearms Can Not Be Legally Carried by a Permit Holder

Additionally, Md. Criminal Law § 4-209 gives local jurisdictions narrow authority to create their own prohibitions on where firearms may be carried or possessed and by whom.

Unlawfully carrying a handgun in violation of Md. Criminal Law § 4-203(a)(1)(i) is also a strict liability crime. For more on this, read our article on the recent Maryland Court of Appeals case Lawrence v. State HERE.

Reciprocity

Maryland does not recognize the permits of any other state or American territory. Residents of other states can apply for a Maryland permit, but this usually requires them to demonstrate a nexus with the state, such as conducting business or having another sort of relationship with the state. Many states however do recognize Maryland permits and some states will issue their permit to a Maryland resident who holds a Maryland Wear and Carry permit. See the HandgunLaw.us page for Maryland for more information on reciprocity.

History

It was not until 1809 that Maryland prohibited any carry of weapons, but that legislation criminalized only the carrying of a weapon “with the intent feloniously to assault any person.” Archives of Maryland 570:94. Any carry, concealed or open, with no permit required, was still legal as long as it was without felonious intent. In 1831, in reaction to the Nat Turner Rebellion in Virginia, Maryland enacted a statewide law that requires free blacks (only) to obtain a license from a local court for possession or carry (open or concealed) of firearms. Archives of Maryland 213:448. Maryland did not ban any type of carry for other citizens until 1866, when it banned concealed carry, but still allowed open carry. Archives of Maryland 389:468-9. This law was likely passed as a result of the assassination of President Lincoln in 1865, and the abolition of slavery at the 1864 Maryland Constitutional Convention. Since blacks could no longer be directly legislated against, the 1831 law was dropped and the concealed carry prohibition was made general – but could be selectively enforced.

In 1884, Maryland changed its law to once again permit concealed carry, providing that concealed carry was illegal only when arrested and charged with another crime. Archives of Maryland 390:522-3. That approach likewise allowed discriminatory enforcement. The most likely reason for this enactment was that it was thought that 1866 total ban was unconstitutional. In 1904, after more than 300 years of legal concealed carry for non-black Maryland citizens, with no permit required, concealed carry is again made illegal in Maryland, but this time with the exception for “carrying such weapon as a reasonable precaution against apprehended danger.” Archives of Maryland 209:4025-6. The exception again allowed selective enforcement, while keeping it from being a total ban. It was not until 1972 that open or concealed carry of handguns was banned without a permit from the State Police. Archives of Maryland 708:48-51. This law was likely a reaction to the Baltimore Race Riots of 1968, and is strikingly similar in its licensing requirements to the 1831 legislation that licensed carry by freed blacks.

The common thread that runs throughout this history is racist fears. This history matters legally because, as discussed above, the appropriate test under the Second Amendment is one of text, history and tradition. Maryland’s history is typical of gun control nationwide. See Clayton E. Cramer, The Racist Roots of Gun Control, 4 Kan. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 17, 20 (1995) (“The various Black Codes adopted after the Civil War required blacks to obtain a license before carrying or possessing firearms or bowie knives .... These restrictive gun laws played a part in provoking Republican efforts to get the Fourteenth Amendment passed.”). That reality was also noted in Heller, 554 U.S. at 614–16, and by Justice Thomas in concurring in McDonald v. City of Chicago, 561 U.S. at 844-847. That is a legacy of shame. Law-abiding persons of all races, not just the privileged few, should be allowed to protect themselves legally.

You can read the bill file from the 1972 hangun control legislation that ushered in Maryland's modern restrictions on carrying handguns in public HERE.

Lawsuits

NOTE: The cases here refer to the Handgun Permit Review Board, a quasi-judicial body created by the 1972 legislation that established MD's permitting system. The board's existence was eliminated as a result of legislation in 2018. MSI had requested a veto from Governor Larry Hogan, who denied the request.

Snowden v. Handgun Permit Review Board, 413 A.2d 295, 45 Md.App. 464 (Md. App. 1980) - Upholding a reading of "good and substantial reason" to mean that the applicant bears the burden of demonstrating specifically why they need to carry a handgun more than their personal anxiety or say-so.

Scherr v. Handgun Permit Review Board, 163 Md.App. 417, 880 A.2d 1137 (Md. App. 2005) - Re-affirming the Court of Special Appeals's prior holdings in Snowden, and additionally rejecting 2nd Amendment arguments in support of the right to keep and bear arms.

Woollard v. Gallagher, 712 F.3d 865 (4th Cir. 2013) - Upholding Maryland's requirement that an applicant for a carry permit demonstrates a "good and substantial reason" for issuance of a permit.

Whalen v. Handgun Permit Review Board (Md. App. 2020) - Unreported opinion where the Court of Special Appeals agreed with a lower court that plaintiff did not establish a 2nd Amendment claim before the Handgun Permit Review Board in his initial appeal and could not bring it before the court. The court also agreed with the board's finding that the applicant lacked a "good and substantial reason" for issuance of a permit. This case was dismissed.

Call v. Jones III, No. 21-1334 (4th Cir. Ongoing)

Helpful Resources

HandgunLaw.us - Maryland
List of prohibitors from firearms possession under Maryland State law
List of prohibitors from firearms possession under Federal law
Maryland State Police Licensing Division
Maryland State Police Licensing Division - Wear and Carry Permits
Maryland State Police Licensing Portal
Maryland State Police Licensing Portal User Guide
List of LiveScan Fingerprint Providers
List of Maryland State Police Qualified and Certified Handgun Instructors
Wear and Carry Permit Course of Fire
Certified Qualification Score Sheet

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Maryland Shall Issue®, Inc.
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