When Can Security Officers Carry a Gun?
A question frequently arises as to whether an employee of a security company can obtain a permit for a handgun. In a recent case in the state of New Jersey, the police chief for the municipality granted the petitioner’s application to renew his permit to carry a handgun. Subsequently, a law division judge denied the application. The petitioner then appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court from the judge’s order.
In the case, the petitioner filed his renewal application for a permit to carry a handgun. On his application, he listed his occupation as a “security guard/private investigator” with the security company. The petitioner attached endorsements to his application attesting to his good moral character and behavior and his ability to exercise self-control. He also attached his employer’s letter stating, in part:“. . . he acts as a deterrent, and protects property and reduces losses. The security company is under contract to respond to burglar alarms, and petitioner will also be involved in surveillances, stakeouts, undercover assignments, fugitive recovery, criminal investigations, high value payroll protection, high value truck escorts, alarm responses and building searches which require apprehending intruders and holding them for local police arrests. In addition, petitioner will frequently be assigned to armed accounts and to hold shifts for armed officers on vacation or sick leave.” The letter further noted it was imperative that petitioner be permitted to carry a handgun since he will be thrust into situations where the presence of a handgun will reduce the threat of unjustifiable harm to the petitioner and those individuals on whose behalf he is assigned to perform investigations or to protect.
The judge on appeal indicated in his ruling that the applicant had not shown specific threats against his person and that the employer’s letter of need did not outline specific occasions when this employee, its client or others have been subject to such danger. These bare statements did not provide information necessary to meet the required criteria set forth in case law. The court pointed out that the statute indicates that if the application has been approved by the chief police officer or superintendent, “the applicant shall forthwith present it to the Superior Court of the county in which the applicant resides, or to the Superior Court in any county where he intends to carry a handgun. . . .” The court will issue the permit to the applicant only if it is satisfied that the applicant is a person of good character who is not subject to any of the disabilities set forth in the code section, that he is thoroughly familiar with the safe handling and use of handguns, and that he has a justifiable need to carry a handgun.
The court then pointed out that, “Employees of a private security agency have no preferred right by virtue of their status to obtain a permit to carry a gun. The statute makes an exception only for employees of armored-car companies.” In the case of employees of private detective agencies, armored car companies and private security companies, conditions include that: 1. In the course of performing statutorily authorized duties, the applicant is subject to a substantial threat of serious bodily harm; and 2. That carrying a handgun by the applicant is necessary to reduce the threat of unjustifiable serious bodily harm to any person.
The court therefore indicated that it agreed with the judge that conclusory assertions parroting statutory language are insufficient to satisfy the statutory requirements for obtaining a permit to carry a handgun.
Q: Several of our subscribers have suffered rather severe damage as a result of the recent hurricanes. One of our subscribers has indicated that their premises has been destroyed and they therefore have no intention of honoring their contract with our company. Do we have any recourse?
A: Without seeing your contract, I cannot really comment. Many contracts do give the subscriber or either party the right to either terminate or cancel service resulting from an Act of God. You would really have to check your contract to see what the particular situation is. If the contract is silent, then, all other things being equal, you would be entitled to collect the monthly service fee or the loss of profit to which you may be entitled if there is a breach. Obviously if the premises has been destroyed, you may not be required to provide service to the subscriber. My best advice is to look at some type of an arrangement with the subscriber where you can suspend service during the period that they do not require alarm service and begin to provide service when their business becomes active again.
Keep in mind, depending on the extent of the damage, it still may be necessary to protect the contents of the subscriber’s premises so that alarm service should continue, notwithstanding the fact that the subscriber is not doing business.