Decided: Oct 24, 2011
Defendants were alleged members of the Pagans Motorcycle Club (the “PMC”), a gang located primarily across the East Coast. Floyd Moore was the national vice president of the PMC and a convicted felon prohibited from possessing a firearm. Moore instructed other members of the PMC, including defendants, to carry firearms to protect him. Consequently, defendants were charged with violating 18 U.S.C. § 922(h) for possessing firearms while being employed for a convicted felon. Defendants moved to dismiss the charges on the grounds that the words “employed for” and “employment” used in the statute required the government to prove that the defendants were employed for wages. The district court granted the defendants’ motions to dismiss the § 922(h) charges.
On appeal, the Fourth Circuit reversed. The plain language of § 922(h) contains no explicit requirement that the defendant be hired for tangible compensation. Congress did not use any language that referred to monetary value in § 922(h), nor did it use the language “employee of,” as it had done elsewhere in Title 18 to refer to employment for wages. Furthermore, the district court’s interpretation of the statute would frustrate its purpose, which is to prevent felons who may not possess a firearm under § 922(g) from circumventing the prohibition by hiring armed bodyguards. Compensation has never been conclusive to a determination of an employer-employee relationship. Therefore, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for further proceedings to determine whether defendants were employed by Moore.
-Sara I. Salehi