Open Carry Laws in Florida

March 17, 2015

The Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled last month against Dale Norman, who was convicted of a second degree misdemeanor after his 2012 arrest for openly carrying a holstered gun. Norman appealed his conviction, arguing that it was a violation of both the state and federal constitutions to ban the open carry of firearms.

In Norman v. State, the court upheld Florida’s ban. It ruled that, though the Second Amendment protects the right to carry firearms outside the home for self-defense, the legislature may regulate the manner of bearing arms as long as it permits a reasonable method of carrying weapons. In Florida, that requirement is satisfied by concealed carry licenses. The court noted that the requirement to obtain a concealed carry permit in Florida is not an onerous condition, and so the requirement does not unduly restrict the right to bear arms.

Open Carry Prohibition

The Florida State Constitution protects the right to bear arms. However, it states that the legislature may regulate the manner used to bear arms. The legislature has done that through its concealed and open carry laws.

The open carry of firearms is generally illegal in Florida. The prohibition covers all firearms or electric weapons or devices, other than self-defense chemical sprays or nonlethal stun guns, dart-firing stun guns, or other nonlethal electric weapons or devices, that are designed only for self-defense. Florida law does provide, however, for a concealed carry license.

Exceptions

There are some situations in which the open carry of firearms is legal, however. These include:

  • In one’s own home or place of business;
  • Members of the military, while training;
  • Police, wardens, sheriffs, highway patrol, forest officials, etc., while carrying out their official duties;
  • While engaging in hunting, camping, and fishing, and while traveling to and from such activities;
  • Firearms manufacturers, dealers, or repairers, in the course of their business;
  • While engaging in target practice or weapons testing, and while traveling to and from these activities;
  • Immediately after buying a pistol, as long as it is securely wrapped;
  • In one’s own car, or on public transit, as long as the weapon is securely encased; or,
  • In other situations specified in the statute.

Florida’s open carry statute also allows a person who is lawfully carrying a concealed firearm to briefly display the weapon to another person, as long as the open display, if not in self-defense, is not threatening or angry. It is also lawful to openly use a firearm if acting in self-defense.

Penalties

Violation of the prohibition on the open carry of firearms is a second degree misdemeanor, the least serious misdemeanor in Florida. Second degree misdemeanors are punishable by any combination of the following:

Firearms violations can have serious consequences in Florida. If you are facing firearms violation charges, whether misdemeanor or felony, the expertise and advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney is essential. Please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a free initial consultation.