State passes new domestic gun law

gavel2Among the new gun control measures passed by the Maryland Legislature and signed by the Governor in 2018 addressing guns owned or possessed by persons convicted of crimes of domestic violence. The new statute, which was House Bill 1646, amends the Criminal Law Article to require persons convicted of such crimes to surrender their firearms and provides as follows.

The law applies to individuals convicted of a “domestically related crime.” This is defined as “a crime committed by a defendant against a victim who is a person eligible for relief, as defined in Section 4-501 of the Family Law Article, or who had a sexual relationship with the defendant within 12 months before the commission of the crime.” Those persons entitled to relief are defined in the Family Law provisions to include a person’s spouse or former spouse, cohabitant, person related by blood or marriage or adoption, parents, children or stepchildren, and an individual who has a child in common with the defendant. 

When an individual is charged with a “domestically related crime,” the prosecutor must provide written notice of such a charge to the defendant, defendant’s counsel, and the Court. If a defendant is then convicted or pleads guilty to such a crime, the Court must order the defendant to transfer ownership or possession of all “regulated firearms”, rifles or shotguns. Such weapons are defined by the Criminal Law Article, Section 6-233 to include handguns and a long list of assault type weapons. 

Within two business days, the convicted person must deliver any such weapons to law enforcement or a federally licensed firearms dealer. If the prosecutor or law enforcement has probable cause to believe such weapons have not been transferred, they can apply to the Court for a search warrant to search any location where there is probable cause to believe the weapons may be located. The law does not provide any time limit for how long the weapons must be surrendered. 

It remains to be seen whether the constitutionality under the Second Amendment of this and the other gun laws enacted are challenged in Court, and whether additional laws will be introduced in the next legislative session.

Thomas Patrick Ryan is a partner in the Rockville law firm of McCarthy Wilson, which specializes in civil litigation.

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