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Maryland Court of Appeals finds that security guard could not lawfully carry a handgun onto the employer’s parking lot without a valid permit, regardless of his employer’s consent.
Blue v. Prince George’s County
In Blue v. Prince George’s County, the Maryland Court of Appeals interpreted the scope of an exception to Maryland’s general prohibition against carrying handguns, which permits an employee — with his or her employer’s permission — to carry a handgun “within the confines of the business establishment.” MD. CODE ANN., CRIM. LAW § 4-203(b)(7)(ii). The Court ultimately found that the “confines of the business establishment” did not extend to an open parking lot adjacent to an employer’s nightclub, regardless of whether the employer gave its head of security permission to carry a firearm on the premises. Three judges dissented, finding that the Court’s majority opinion interpreted the exception too narrowly. Rather, the dissent found that the exception would extend onto a privately held adjacent parking lot.
Roguell Blue was the head of security for a nightclub in Capital Heights, Maryland. Mr. Blue’s employer required that he be uniformed, and carry a firearm; however, Mr. Blue did not have a permit to carry a handgun. On June 17, 2008, Mr. Blue was investigating a disturbance in the nightclub’s parking lot. Upon confrontation by Mr. Blue, those responsible for the disturbance fled the parking lot. Rather than pursue those individuals, Mr. Blue called the Prince George’s County Police Department to report the incident. Unknown to Mr. Blue, officers were already on route to the nightclub due to a report of gunshots. When the officers arrived and learned that Mr. Blue was carrying a handgun, the officers requested that Mr. Blue produce a valid permit. Instead, Mr. Blue presented the officers with a laminated copy of CRIM. LAW § 4-203(a)(1) and a card that identified him as a Special Agent of the “United States Fugitive Enforcement Agency.” The United States Fugitive Enforcement Agency was a private business owned by Mr. Blue. The officers arrested Mr. Blue for carrying a handgun in public without a valid permit under CRIM. LAW § 4-203(a)(1).
After the charges against Mr. Blue were disposed of by entry of nolle prosequi, Mr. Blue filed suit against Prince George’s County and the three (3) officers involved in his arrest (collectively, “Defendants”) in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County. Mr. Blue alleged a violation of Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, false arrest, and malicious prosecution. Mr. Blue claimed that he was protected by an exception to CRIM. LAW § 4-203(a)(1) that permits an employee, with his or her employer’s permission, to carry a handgun “within the confines of the business establishment,” MD. CODE ANN., CRIM. LAW § 4-203(b)(7)(ii). At trial, Mr. Blue’s claim of malicious prosecution was disposed of by motion for summary judgment. Mr. Blue’s remaining claims, however, returned verdicts in Mr. Blue’s favor. He was awarded $106,100.00 in damages. Both parties appealed, and the Court of Special Appeals upheld the dismissal of Mr. Blue’s malicious prosecution claim, and reversed the jury’s verdict because Mr. Blue was carrying his handgun outside the “confines” of his employer’s nightclub. Mr. Blue filed for writ of certiorari, which the Court of Appeals granted in order to determine the scope of the “supervisory employee exception” to Maryland’s handgun law.
Writing the Court’s majority opinion, Judge McDonald affirmed the Court of Special Appeals’ decision. In particular, the Court held that the “confines” of a “business establishment” under the supervisory employee exception did not extend to an open parking lot adjacent to the nightclub. Looking to the plain meaning of the statute, the Court found that “within the confines of the business establishment” meant the interior space of a commercial enterprise; this would not include an adjacent parking lot. The Court also found the legislative history of the text to support its interpretation, noting that the purpose of the exception was for self-defense. Accordingly, the Court rejected Mr. Blue’s argument that “logic and common sense” required that the law permit Mr. Blue to “apprehend someone who had just committed a violent crime inside the building” and was trying escape outside. Blue v. Prince George’s County, No. 87, slip op. at 16 (Md. Sept. 27, 2013). Rather, the court reasoned that”[t]he supervisory [employee] exception in the handgun law was not meant to confer on a business the power to deputize a private citizen.” Id. at 17. Therefore, Mr. Blue’s conduct was not within the scope of the supervisory employee exception.
Judge Green filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Chief Judge Bell (ret.) and Judge Adkins. Judge Green reasoned that an adjacent private parking lot was within the boundaries of the supervisory employee exception. At the core of Judge Green’s dissent, he found:
Id. at 8 (Green, J., dissenting). The Dissent found that the legislative history supported a more common sense approach to the supervisory employee exception, the purpose of which was to protect all private real estate owned regardless of whether that real estate was enclosed.
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