FL bill would expand legal “open carry” rights

Florida Senator Greg Steube (R) recently filed SB 1242, which is identical to Rep. Jay Fant’s (R) HB 739, which would expand the scenarios where “open carry” is legal in the state of Florida. Open carry of firearms is currently legal in 45 states (Texas recently legalized licensed open carry). It was legal in Florida before 1987 when then State Attorney Janet Reno pushed for the ban during a special legislative session and Republican Governor Bob Martinez signed the ban into law.

Under current Florida law (790.053), it is a second-degree misdemeanor to open carry a firearm other than the exceptions listed in F.S. 790.25 (e.g. during target practice under safe conditions and in a safe place not prohibited by law or going to or from such place, or when going to, or returning from, or when engaged in fishing, camping, or lawful hunting).

These matching Bills list additional activities that would allow a person to either “open carry” or “concealed carry” while participating in, or going to or from these activities, and create a new set of activities where a person could lawfully possess a firearm without having to have a concealed weapons permit. The list includes mostly outdoor activities that many Floridians already do. For example:

(i) A person engaged in, traveling to, or returning from a lawful outdoor expedition or activity, including, but not limited to:

1. Crabbing, gigging, cast netting, lobstering, or any other fishing activity;
2. Hiking, trekking, backpacking, cross-country running, geocaching, or any other orienteering activity;
3. Trapping, falconry, or any other hunting activity;
4. Bicycling, mountain biking, trail riding, or any other cycling activity;
5. All-terrain vehicle, dirt bike, four-wheeler, or any other off-road vehicle riding activity;
6. Boating, canoeing, kayaking, rafting, or any other maritime activity;
7. Dog walking, animal training, mushing, or any other outdoor animal exercising activity;
8. Speleology, spelunking, or any other caving activity;
9. Horseback riding or any other equestrian activity;
10. Rock climbing, rappelling, or any other mountaineering activity;
11. Nature photography, bird watching, astronomy, or any other outdoor viewing activity; and
12. Picnicking, mushroom hunting, berry picking, metal detecting, fossil hunting, or any other outdoor recreational, training, scientific, or athletic activity;

(j) A person traveling to or returning from a motor vehicle; a residence, dwelling, apartment, condominium, townhouse, lodge, cabin, motor home, mobile home, recreational vehicle, hotel, motel, or any other place of residence or shelter; or any other place at which a firearm or weapon may be lawfully possessed;

Additionally, section (j) would eliminate the omission in current law that technically makes it illegal to take your legal firearm from your lawfully carried location in your car to your apartment (residence). Currently, you may possess a firearm in your home any way you wish, and you may have a firearm in your vehicle lawfully also without a permit. However, if the vehicle is on a common property, to get your legal firearm to and/or from your vehicle has been looked at as being illegal by some law enforcement officers. This subsection would provide clarification and would prevent that from being a problem any longer.

While it is currently a misdemeanor to open carry in Florida, it is a felony (790.06) to carry a concealed firearm or weapon without a license. Statute 790.06 also limits who may qualify for a concealed carry license and the place and manner in which a weapon may be legally carried.

It should be noted that under F.S. 790.10, it is still illegal to carry or display any dangerous weapon (including any firearm, sword, dirk, cane, electronic weapon, etc.) in a rude, careless, angry or threatening manner, if not in self-defense. Also, under F.S. 784.021, it is still a felony to threaten anyone with a deadly weapon, unless in self-defense.

A related firearms bill proposed in 2017, SB 148, would have reduced the penalties for people who have concealed-weapons licenses that openly carry, at least for the first two occurrences. Though that bill died in the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee. Under that proposed bill, license holders would have been cited for noncriminal violations that would carry a $25 fine on a first violation and a $500 fine on a second violation. They would have faced second-degree misdemeanor charges on third or subsequent violations.

Former FL State Representative Matt Gaetz, who is currently serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, proposed open carry legislation (HB 163) in the Florida House in 2015. That legislation died in committee.

U.S. Constitution, Amendment II:
“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Florida Constitution, Article I, Section 8:
“The right of the people to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves and of the lawful authority of the state shall not be infringed, except that the manner of bearing arms may be regulated by law.”

Florida Constitution, Article 1, Section 2:
“Basic rights.—All natural persons, female and male alike, are equal before the law and have inalienable rights, among which are the right to enjoy and defend life and liberty…”


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