Interstate (To, from or without stopping within Maryland)
Firearm Owner's Protection Act (FOPA)
FOPA is codified at 18 U.S.C. 926A. It provides: Notwithstanding any other provision of any law or any rule or regulation of a State or any political subdivision thereof, any person who is not otherwise prohibited by this chapter from transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm shall be entitled to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm if, during such transportation the firearm is unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the passenger compartment of such transporting vehicle: Provided, That in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver's compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.
Some points to remember.
1. FOPA is an affirmative defense. The burden is on you to demonstrate that you are incompliance with each of its elements.
2. FOPA covers the "transport" of a firearm. If you are not actively "transporting" (i.e., stopped) you are not within its literal coverage. And at least one federal court of appeals has held that it applies only to transport in a vehicle. Best practice: Plan your trip well so that you don't have to stop in any jurisdiction whose laws you would violate by possession of the gun, e.g., NY, NJ, MA. In such jurisdictions. avoid stopping for any reason. That may even include a stop for gas or restroom break. You should certainly not stop for an overnight stay, stop to shop or stop to visit.
3. FOPA requires you to be able to show that it was legal for you to "possess and carry" at the "place" of your origin and that it is legal for you to "possess and carry" at the "place" of your destination. If the place of your origin is your home, you are covered by Section 4-203 of the MD Crim. Code. So, how are you going to demonstrate to the LEO or prosecutor or the judge, that it was legal for you possess and carry at your destination? The best way is a CCW that covers that jurisdiction. Get CCWs with lots of coverage, viz., at your likely future places of destinations. Be prepared to prove the "place" of your destination, e.g., with reservation documentation.
4. The "transport" must be in strict compliance with the FOPA requirement, i.e., the "firearm is unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the passenger compartment of such transporting vehicle." Put the gun and the ammo in your trunk. If you have no trunk then, "the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console." Best practice is to put the unloaded gun in a locked container and the ammunition in a separate locked container and place both as far away from the driver and the passengers as possible.
Intrastate (Within Maryland)
Non prohibited persons can lawfully transport legally possessed firearms to, or from the following places. When transporting, all firearms should be:
- Unloaded (See MD Atty General's Opinion allowing loaded, separately enclosed magazines)
- Enclosed (See MD Atty General's Opinion on Definition of enclosed including a holster with thumb strap)
Permitted purposes (use):
- Organized military activity
- A target shoot
- Formal or informal target practice
- Sport shooting event
- DNR sponsored firearm or Hunter Safety Class
- Dog obedience training class or show
- While engaged in, on the way to, or returning from that activity
Permitted purpose (transport)
- To/from a place of purchase or sale
- To/from a bona fide repair shop
- Between bona fide residences
- Between bona fide residence & business if operated & substantially owned by person.
Becoming a Maryland Designated Collector, allows an important additional permitted transport allowance: to, or from a public or private exhibition.
While not specifically prohibited, it is recommended that any transport trip be uninterrupted, and directly to or from a permitted destination.
- Source: Md. PUBLIC SAFETY Code Ann. § 4-203. Wearing, carrying, or transporting handgun