First Person Perspective: Buying a Handgun in Maryland

Do you know the process? It might not be what you think.


By Allen Etzler, Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS - I was brought up around firearms. I was taught to treat them with respect, but not fear them.

So, three months after turning 21, right around Christmas, I decided it was time to buy my first handgun.

My stepfather, who is my lifelong firearms instructor, informed me that buying a handgun would be a long process. The most fun part of the process would be deciding what I wanted to buy.

I wanted the gun for target shooting. I wanted something with inexpensive ammunition, and that was easy to operate, reliable and accurate. I also wanted something fairly affordable, because it was a Christmas present from my parents.

Dec. 16: Nine days before Christmas, I walked into Hendershots Sporting Goods in Hagerstown thinking I was going to buy an M1911 pistol, but after holding and examining an array of guns, I decided I wanted a Smith and Wesson 22A semi-automatic handgun. I knew nothing about the gun, but I loved its functionality and feel.

I took it to the register to begin the process. I handed the clerk my driver’s license, so he could begin filling out his portion of the paperwork. I thought that after filling out the paperwork I would get to take my gun home. I was wrong.

The store clerk brought me four forms to fill out. One was the federal form required for any firearm purchased from a licensed dealer. The second was the application for a regulated firearm, which is where the background check takes place. The third was the state registration of the firearm.

The final form is a one-sheet piece of paper that requires only your signature. This paper is a waiver that says the purchaser recognizes the requirement of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, or any facility similar, to disclose to the Maryland State Police whether you have a mental disorder, and a history of violence.

The background check form consisted of 11 “yes” or “no” answer questions that required my initials after each one. The questions addressed my age, U.S. citizenship, use of drugs or alcohol, history of mental illness and criminal history. One question requires the applicant to write-in his or her country of citizenship. If the applicant is not a citizen, he or she must write in their “INS-issued alien number or admission number.”

The gun registration form contains the firearm information, including the serial number, make and model of the firearm, as well as personal information, and dealer information.

I submitted the paperwork, paid the clerk and was getting ready to leave the store when the clerk told me that in order to be able to take the handgun home I was going to have to complete the Maryland State Police gun safety training course online, and bring a certificate of completion with me when I came to pick up the gun.

Maryland law requires a seven-day minimum waiting period before the purchaser can actually take a regulated firearm home with them. Depending on the number of firearms purchases statewide at the time, the waiting period can extend longer. During this period the police perform a ballistic fingerprinting test with the firearm.

Ballistic fingerprinting is a process in which one single round is fired from the gun. The firearm will leave a distinct set of marks on the casing that is only identifiable to that particular gun.

After the ballistics fingerprinting is done, the state police ships the gun back to the dealer.

Dec. 22: The Maryland gun safety course can be done online, so almost a week after my purchase, I began the safety-training program.

I watched several minutes of video clips, taking copious notes, as the instructor informed me about turning the safety on and off, assembling and disassembling the weapon, and the cardinal rules of safety for all handguns.

The video took nearly 30 minutes, and just as I prepared to use my notes for the final quiz, the instructor said I was finished and allowed me to print my certificate. The safety-training program does not require the handgun purchaser to pay attention to the program, nor does it require the purchaser to actually watch the video.

Dec. 24: On Christmas Eve, I still had not received a call about my gun being ready to pick up. It turns out that in the aftermath of the , and because of fears about a possible assault weapons ban, gun sales in Maryland and elsewhere skyrocketed. Rather than seven days, my handgun was not ready to be picked up for 13 days.

Waiting periods have only increased since I purchased my gun and some people are waiting for more than three weeks.

Dec. 29: After I received notification that my gun was ready, I went back to the gun store to pick it up. When I arrived, the clerk handed me the gun, and some more paperwork. This paperwork was for proof that I received the gun. It took less than three minutes to fill it out and required only my signature and initials in a few places. That afternoon, I took my gun home.

Kongo February 20, 2013 at 02:49 AM
You got that right, Stanker Steve. You haven't a clue how crazy you are.
Steve February 20, 2013 at 02:49 AM
Kongo = Brian Sears That is why he won't be banned for his 3rd time.
Kongo February 20, 2013 at 02:51 AM
Keep weeping, Stanker Steve. It's really fun to watch.
Patrick February 20, 2013 at 02:51 AM
As the Dwayne the Rock Johnson says "Just Bring It." But be prepared to get some egg thrown in your face! LOL
Steve February 20, 2013 at 02:53 AM
LOL Kongo with his e-mail sent Beeker along with His Patch Editor on a Wild Goose Chase to the SAO's office. What a bunch of Maroons!
Kongo February 20, 2013 at 02:53 AM
Stanker Steve just loves his beatdowns. He's been getting laid out daily since 2011. LMAO
Kongo February 20, 2013 at 02:55 AM
LMAO...what a blithering idiot.
Patrick February 20, 2013 at 02:55 AM
I guess his beatdowns are starting to pile up!
Kongo February 20, 2013 at 02:57 AM
He's also a pathological liar. Among his many lies - 25 years in the military, speaks 6 languages, has multiple college degrees. ROTFLMAO
Steve February 20, 2013 at 02:57 AM
Sorry Beeker said it was his Editor Ron Cassie. Boycott Baltimore Magazine! Journalistic Idiots!
Kongo February 20, 2013 at 02:57 AM
Oh, and filthy rich. LMAO
Kongo February 20, 2013 at 02:58 AM
Did you hit your head there, Stanker Steve? You're just spewing out gibberish. Get on up so you can get laid out again. LMAO
Steve February 20, 2013 at 03:01 AM
It's Okay AOL has deep pockets. They know where the lawsuit will bring them. Editor Ron Cassie is going to hurt them more then they will know...
Patrick February 20, 2013 at 03:06 AM
You know what Kongo we all are liars. If some one told you they never lied once, I would laugh. Steve- Are you or were in the military? If so I applaud your service to help defend this country.
Kongo February 20, 2013 at 03:08 AM
Watch out, she's gonna blow! Stanker Steve just gets crazier and crazier.
Kongo February 20, 2013 at 03:10 AM
Go ahead, tell some more whoppers, Walter "Stank" Mitty. Can't wait to hear where you went today. Africa or South America? LOL
Stephen February 20, 2013 at 03:59 AM
Just the way it should be!
Kongo February 20, 2013 at 04:28 AM
Did you just squeak something out, you filthy little poodle? Fido the idiot mutt must have a furball. LMAO
MarkV February 20, 2013 at 02:18 PM
Steve, What is it that is stupid about "clinging to Guns and Religion?" This once great nation of ours was founded on Religion and our Guns. You seem to be the one filled with stupidity.
1ke February 20, 2013 at 02:28 PM
Methinks the Buzzard is at work. Buzzard=the late B.O.
FIFA February 20, 2013 at 05:11 PM
Amy, I thought my point was clear, you did not post all of the information that was available as you left off the fact that this woman's baby had "fetal abnormalities" and this was the reason for her decision. We don't know what those abnormalities were and you did not post that fact. I found and posted the additional information. Then you have two posters after you who believe she "deserved to die". Sick.
JBL February 20, 2013 at 06:34 PM
Steve you go to lots of gun shows do you?
sherman crigger February 20, 2013 at 07:58 PM
I have been waiting since Jan. 8th and my FFL still hasn't received my paper work.
jnrentz1 February 22, 2013 at 01:08 AM
FIFA: It is not a straw man argument. You cited two instrumentalites common in America, the automoble and the gun. I simply followed up with some truthful information that has validity.
FIFA February 22, 2013 at 01:17 AM
jnrentz1, I generally despise referencing wikipedia on anything, but they give a decent description of a "straw man" argument. You sole correlation between automobiles and weapons is deaths. So what? It is a ludicrous and silly argument. Automobile deaths for the most part are accidents and gun deaths for the most part are intentional events. It is a silly argument and I hope you can do better. Stick to your second amendment argument, it has much more merit. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man
jnrentz1 February 22, 2013 at 01:34 PM
FIFA: I believe that my comparison between fatal car crashes and gun deaths has validity. I do not despise a source because I may disagree with it, be the source, The Associated Press, World News Daily, Mother Jones, the NRA, the Bloomberg News, Liberty University, The Washington Post, the University of California at Berkley, or Wikipedia. I am not against Gun Control, but I am against a scheme that demonizes, vilifies, and makes into criminals thousands of otherwise law abiding Americans. I hope that some of the readers contributing to this discussion can stop, or at least lessen the personal attacks, and name calling. Thank you.
FIFA February 22, 2013 at 02:12 PM
jnrentz1 - you make what is a seemingly logical argument, but I disagree. But presuming your argument has merit, which is that both guns and autos can be dangerous, I presume you would agree then that the very strict regulations that we apply to autos and driving be applied to gun owners? You probably disagree.
CP February 22, 2013 at 02:15 PM
When a Lib enters a car high on shwag it becomes a lethal weapon.
jnrentz1 February 22, 2013 at 02:52 PM
FIFA: What did you have in mind regarding strict regulations? To name a few ideas: I think gun owners should have safes or other mechanisms to keep their weapons safe from misuse and theft. I think anyone with guns in the home should have a home alarm system. I think anyone who carries a gun should have liability insurance. I think all gun owners should keep their weapons clean, and in a safe mode. I think a gun owner should keep ammo and the weapon separate.
FIFA February 22, 2013 at 03:22 PM
jnrentz1, here is a long list from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gavin-magrath/gun-control-debate_b_2389047.html -licensing with written and practical tests; -frequent renewal including updated photo and medical questionnaire; -specialty licensing and training for specialty products; -product registration and mandatory liability insurance policy; -effective enforcement of product safety and use regulations; -key locks and other anti-theft devices; -manufacturer-funded safety research; -adoption by manufacturers of identified best safety features in spite of additional cost; -industry or publicly funded awareness and safety campaigns; and -restriction of high-performance, unsafe products to private courses/ranges. Please note the following caveat. I do not subscribe to your argument linking the two together. Please also note, that I do not for a single moment believe any of the above will have a significant impact on reducing gun deaths. I do believe the above has had a significant impact on automobile deaths. I am of the mind, until magazine loaded weapons are banned in this country, nothing wil significantly change. So I am not a supporter of additional gun control laws as they will prove ineffective as they cannot be enforced from state to state.


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