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When can Maryland parents face charges for unsafe gun storage?

On Behalf of | Jan 9, 2023 | Violent crimes

For most responsible gun owners, keeping their weapons out of their children’s hands is one of their highest priorities. Even most parents who take their children to gun ranges or hunting don’t want them to access their firearms without their knowledge.

Maryland, like most states, requires gun owners to secure their weapons and ammunition to keep children and others who aren’t supposed to have access to them from getting them. Too many tragedies have resulted from children getting ahold of a weapon and hurting or killing themselves or someone else with it.

What does Maryland law say?

Specifically, Maryland law prohibits someone from storing or leaving a loaded weapon “in a location where the person knew or should have known that an unsupervised child would gain access to the firearm.” A child is considered anyone under 16. The charge for violating this law is a misdemeanor and carries a fine of no more than $1,000.

There are some exceptions, even to what is a relatively mild law compared other states’ “safe storage” laws. For example, it doesn’t apply if a child obtained it “as a result of unlawful entry.” Further, it doesn’t apply to children who have a “certificate of firearm and hunter safety.” The law also makes it difficult to hold parents liable in civil court for harm done by a child who gained access to a weapon.

Efforts to strengthen the law haven’t succeeded so far

Gun safety advocates have tried to strengthen Maryland’s safe storage law, citing the use of firearms in teen suicides. Homicides and accidental shootings. However, attempts to add stronger provisions to the law have so far not gained much traction in the state legislature. A bill introduced last year in the Maryland Senate would have changed references to children of under 16 to minors (those under 18). It would also have increased the potential fine to $2,500.

Of course, laws change all the time. With a new governor and a new legislative session about to get to work, it’s important to remember that. If you’re facing charges related to the storage of your firearms, it’s wise to have legal guidance to help protect your rights and help mitigate the consequences.