Florida High Court Deliberates Open Carry Ban

While a large gun with open carry certainly can be comfortable and effective, daily open carry could effect your civil case in the event of a deadly force event.

Do you open carry?

The Gunshine state is known for being a mecca of sorts for gun owners.  The permissive concealed carry standard all but ensures that any law-abiding citizen can obtain a permit if they so choose.  As a result, more than 1.5 million people have been issued a concealed carry permit, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Remember, also, that there is a historical context here.  Florida was a shall-issue state (circa 1988) long before shall issue became mainstream.  Florida was one of the pioneers of creating an issuing standard that didn’t require approval from one’s chief law enforcement officer.  In this respect, the Gunshine state was ahead of its time.

But as it relates to open carry, however, the Gunshine state is still living in the past.  Open carry is effectively banned in Florida.  But there are some exceptions.  And if one is feeling creative, they can work around the ban.  For example, open carry is permitted if one is hunting, fishing, camping, attending a gun show, shooting at the range and while going to and from such activities, so if you wanted to, you can simply keep a tackle box and rod in your truck and if you’re ever pulled over you can say to the inquiring officer, “I’m going fishing.”

While there is enough of a loophole to work around the ban, the point that gun rights advocates have argued is that they shouldn’t have to pretend to be doing something else to exercise a Constitutionally-protected right.  An un-infringe-able right to keep and bear arms is self-evident enough to permit open carry (and concealed carry for that matter).

But the law in Florida says otherwise.  And now, the debate over the outdated law is at the state’s high court.  It arrived there because of Dale Norman, a Fort Pierce man who was arrested for carrying openly several years ago.  Norman, an otherwise law-abiding citizen, had a permit to carry concealed but opted to carry openly instead, thus flouting the letter of the law.  In court, joined by various gun-rights groups, Norman challenged the constitutionality of the open carry ban.

Norman lost.  He was ordered to pay court costs as well as a $300 fine.  Normal then appealed to the 4th District 4th District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach.  He lost again.  In Feb. 2015, the court ruled that the ban “does not improperly infringe on Florida’s constitutional guarantee, nor does it infringe on the ‘the central component’ of the Second Amendment — the right of self-defense.”

This time around, in front of the state Supreme Court, he’s hoping his luck will change.  This week, lawyers on both sides of the issue made their respective cases, while the justices jumped into the fray, challenging the arguments being put forth.

“Quite frankly, the Legislature at this point has deprived citizens of the substantive right to bear arms,” said Eric Friday, an attorney for Florida Carry, one of the organizations aiding Norman.  “They have offered no evidence, and they have not met their burden that they are required to meet under strict scrutiny, to show that there is some real harm that is being addressed by this ban.”

Justices Barbara Pariente fired back at Friday, attempting to argue that the ban on open carry isn’t really a ban on open carry.

“This isn’t a ban,” Pariente said. “It’s just a ban on the method of carrying that the Legislature has determined protects public safety more than people walking around like they’re in the wild west.

If you read Pariente remark a couple times it becomes quite humorous.  “It isn’t a ban… It’s just a ban on carrying…”  Huh?  So, you mean it is a ban?  Or, it isn’t a ban?  For the record, it sounds like a ban to me.    The next question —  if we agree that it’s a ban — is whether it is justified.  A question that was raised by one of the justices who responded to a point made by Heidi Betterndorf, Assistant Attorney General, representing the state in the case.

“My opponent argues that the constitutional right is the right to open carry outside the home,” said Betterndorf. “The state’s position is the constitutional right is the right to carry outside the home. So, therefore, you can reasonably regulate under the Florida Constitution.”

Justice Charles Canady questioned Betterndorf’s statement, saying, “The fact that it’s a policy decision that has an impact on the Second Amendment right is not the end of the discussion. There has got to be some kind of a justification for it.”

Whether the high court will come to this conclusion or not, there is no reasonable justification to ban open carry.  The “public safety” concern and the “wild west” comparison are complete bunk.  As it stands right now, at least 27 states have permissive open carry laws, meaning law-abiding citizens are allowed to carry openly without a permit or license.  To put it another way, have states like Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Mississippi descended into chaos following the passage of their respective open carry laws?  Heck no!  So there is no legitimate reason to deny law-abiding, Floridians their right to carry firearms openly.

We’ll keep you posted as to what the court decides.

[H/T: Sun Sentinel, ABC 7 WWSB)

About the author: S.H. Blannelberry is the News Editor of GunsAmerica.

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  • Bob September 11, 2016, 12:52 pm

    As a concealed carrier in Fla. I would like to see the printing and brandishing aspects of the law modified to allow reasonable mistakes to be made without consequence. I agree with the tactical advantage of concealed carry but respect the right of others to carry open if they prefer. It should be an individual decision and I think the more open carry becomes commonplace the less of a big deal it will be.

  • Joe June 14, 2016, 2:52 pm

    I am one who is for open carry in the sunshine state. Since the inception in Texas, armed robberies have dropped 12 percent in just one county in the first 4 months of the year 2016. And as to the fear of the anti-gun movement, there is no bloodshed in the streets of the states where open carry is currently in effect.

    • Juan santos June 30, 2016, 2:00 pm

      As a retired Deputy Sheriff from Florida and one who collect firearms I will tell you the reality about open carry, there is no need for open carry, what is the purpose for open carry, for someone to show off their firearm? if you walk into a store with a open carry firearm you are exposing the public and your self to possible injuries and increase the chances of a confrontation with a Police Officer. The wild wild west passed hundred of years ago, there is no need to bring it back.

  • Jeremiah June 13, 2016, 5:39 pm

    The real reason to allow open carry in Florida is to take away the penalty for “printing,” or accidentally showing your concealed firearm.If one shows his concealed firearm in Florida, even accidentally, then he has committed a felony and is subject to some extremely stringent laws. Open carry would eliminate that major problem attendant to accidentally showing one’s concealed firearm.

    And to stanley dubauskas, who cynically, derisively and mockingly advocates allowing dueling:

    Stanislaw – we should also demand all posters demonstrate simple, common sense – please get some b4 posting again…

    • Joe June 14, 2016, 2:54 pm

      Agree to the comment about common sense…

  • Dirty_Old_Madman June 13, 2016, 12:30 pm

    After the attack this past weekend open carry should be permitted. If you are in a bar and drinking alcohol you don’t have the right to carry concealed even with a license. There are those in that club that didn’t drink alcohol. If any of them had a gun there is a possibility there could have been a lower death count.

  • stanley dubauskas June 10, 2016, 12:24 pm

    we should allow dueling

  • J. Johnson June 10, 2016, 10:16 am

    I suspect that the real issues are fear and money in Florida. If one breaks it down even further the money aspect is fear of loosing money. Remember that Florida is dependent on tourism. A huge part of that market is families who are from U.S. States and foreign countries with very tight gun restrictions. Seeing an openly holstered firearm evokes fear. I will not argue here whether that fear is justified. Just seeing a weapon on a nonuniformed person makes many feel uncomfortable. They may take their tourism dollar elsewhere; that I suggest is the real fear of open carry. As for concealed carry, if it is out of sight it is out of mind. While we could and should debate gun legislation one should be aware that public perception often influences legislators more if that is where the money is.

    • Sam June 10, 2016, 5:45 pm

      I agree with you on this one, I conceal carry myself and it requires mental preparedness and safety training to even consider doing so. Open carry would definitely invoke fear in some, specially in the eyes of those that do not have a weapon. A civilian is not a police officer.

      Sounds like we do not have one more thing to show off in this world, We dont need to be showing off loaded weapons.

      Before we know it we will have a whole bunch of undertrained people carrying openly with lasers and red dots on there handguns. I will be the first one to say, if I see a suspicious looking person open carrying a gun other than a gun show, I will not go in the place.

      A handgun is a serious thing, Having it concealed involves great responsibility, open carry, even more. Certainly , not a toy. Lots of awareness needed. Someone gets a hold of that loaded weapon you carry and you are responsible.

    • Thomas Steinruck June 10, 2016, 6:05 pm

      There are tourists in Maine New Hampshire and Vermont. There are tourists at Hilton Head and Jekyll Island. There are tourists in Colorado and Jackson Hole Wyoming. It doesn’t seem to be a problem in any of those places. It’s more about control, the sheriff’s Association doesn’t want to give up control, and the state doesn’t want to give up the licensing fees.

  • Michael June 10, 2016, 10:08 am

    A thug does not care about the law. He OR She will always carry a gun. No protection for the tax payer.

  • TLC June 10, 2016, 9:44 am

    I still don’t understand why any one would give up the tactical advantage of carrying concealed, makes no sense to me. Why do you think the bad guys always carry concealed, they want the advantage of surprise?

    • Thomas Steinruck June 10, 2016, 6:06 pm

      Just because you don’t understand it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Right now when I’m riding my horse on my friends Ranch I have to conceal my weapon, instead it be able to carry it on my saddle or on my hip. Does that make a lot of sense? Yet I can be on the city fishing pier in Downtown Jacksonville & Carry open?

  • mpryan June 10, 2016, 9:34 am

    CA just ruled the opposite! You cannot carry concealed there, makes NO sense. The Supremes will have to decide yet again. I love TEXAS – If you get a license, which I object to on principle.. you can carry open or concealed, no difference. simple. we should be able to carry anytime WITHOUT paying a fee! is my only objection.

  • Nicholas Viccione June 10, 2016, 8:13 am

    But as a Florida resident You can Concealed carry ! So the Courts Are SO screwed up they don`t know the Law. What a Fed up world We live in..

  • Dustin Eward June 10, 2016, 2:54 am

    The “wild west” would be an improvement, if it were even true. Same old “blood in the streets” crap. It never happens. Every other State with Open Carry doesn’t have blood in the streets, except when the cops, pawns of these corrupt officials, try to start some…

    • Thomas Steinruck June 10, 2016, 6:06 pm

      Maine New Hampshire and Vermont are now part of the Wild West? Who knew?

    • JS June 11, 2016, 10:54 am

      If you do a little research you fill find that most of the larger cities and towns of “the wild west” prohibited carry guns. This shows just how illiterate most are about the historical context of the “WILD WEST”.

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