Yesterday, in a devastating en banc opinion by the Pennsylvania Superior Court in Commonwealth v. Anderson, it ruled that an individual who is Act 235 certified is not entitled to carry a firearm to and from work, absent a license to carry firearms, regardless of the language in Act 235 that requires a private security guard carry his/her certificate when “on duty or going to and from duty and carrying a lethal weapon.”
The background of the case is explained succinctly by the court, stating:
The charges stem from an altercation on North Dewey Street in Philadelphia on November 3, 2013. Anderson was on his way home from his job as a private security guard, and he stopped at a party to pick up a friend who had asked him to take her home. He was wearing a bullet-proof vest and a security badge or lanyard around his neck, and he was carrying a gun; he stopped his car in the middle of the street. Meanwhile, Mark Ellis drove onto the street behind Anderson and stopped to drop off food at the home of a local resident, Syreeta Manire. After Manire retrieved the food, Ellis quickly proceeded to drive away. Anderson’s car was blocking the street, and Ellis stopped a few feet behind it. Anderson and Ellis then exchanged words. Ellis pulled out a gun, and Anderson tried to grab that gun from him. Shots were fired, and Anderson shot and killed Ellis. A subsequent police investigation determined that Anderson was not licensed to carry a firearm, but that he did possess a valid Act 235 certificate.
The Commonwealth decided not to prosecute Anderson for any homicide-related charges stemming from the shooting. But on January 17, 2014, it charged Anderson with impersonating a police officer and violating two provisions of the PUFA: Section 6106(a)(1), which prohibits carrying a firearm without a license, and Section 6108, which prohibits carrying an unlicensed firearm on public streets or public property in Philadelphia.
On February 11, 2014, Anderson filed a motion to quash the PUFA charges. After hearing argument, the trial court granted Anderson’s motion. In an opinion, the court explained that Act 235 requires private security guards to carry a certificate under the Act when “on duty or going to and from duty and carrying a lethal weapon,” and that, in the court’s view, this constitutes “legislatively created permission to carry a firearm on the street while ‘going to and from duty.’” … Therefore, Anderson was “entitled to avail himself of Act 235’s specific permission for him to be carrying a firearm at the time of his arrest” and could not be charged with violating the PUFA.
As the City of Philadelphia was disgruntled with the trial court’s dismissal of these charges, it appealed to the Superior Court.
On August 23, 2017, the Superior Court issued its en banc decision reversing the trial court and re-instituted the charges. After reviewing the history of the Uniform Firearms Act (referred to as PUFA by the court) and Act 235, the court declares that “PUFA requires a person carrying a firearm to have a license, but an Act 235 certificate is not a license and does not function as a type of document that could serve as a substitute for a license.” More specifically, the court states that “An Act 235 certificate thus does not act as the ‘license’ required by Sections 6106 and 6108 of the PUFA and cannot serve as a substitute for that license.”
But some of you are probably saying that he’s exempt under Section 6106(b)(6), which declares:
(b) Exceptions. — The provisions of subsection (a) shall not apply to:
(6) Agents, messengers and other employees of common carriers, banks, or business firms, whose duties require them to protect moneys, valuables and other property in the discharge of such duties.
However, in a mind-boggling evisceration of the statutory language, the court goes on to say that the “exceptions” found in Section 6106(b), even though the statutory text states that subsection (a) shall not apply, are defenses that must be proven at trial. This is truly a manifest injustice, as the General Assembly is acutely aware of how to draft provisions that are “defenses,” as evidenced by 18 Pa.C.S. 912(c), and those that are immunities or exceptions.
Based on the absurdity of this decision, for example, now law enforcement officers, who are found in a courthouse possessing a firearm, are to be prosecuted and have to prove, as a defense, that the firearm was possessed in “lawful performance of official duties” because Section 913(c) makes such possession an “exception.” Even more obscene, the same would be true of “constables, sheriffs, prison or jail wardens, or their deputies, policemen of this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions, or other law-enforcement officers,” since this is an “exception” found in Section 6106(b).
As a result, if you are an Act 235 security guard, it is now imperative that you obtain a license to carry firearms, immediately. Likewise, if you are a law enforcement officer, including constable, sheriff, deputy or police officer, even a Pennsylvania State Trooper, you must immediately obtain a license to carry firearms.
If you or someone you know is being prosecuted for carrying a firearm absent a license to carry firearms, contact FICG today to discuss your options.
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