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Florida Supreme Court Shoots Down Public Open Carry

March 03, 2017

On Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court said no to overturning the state’s age-old ban on allowing people to openly carrying firearms in public. The Supreme Court sided with the 4th District Court of Appeals, which ruled in 2015 against a man arrested in St. Lucie County for openly carrying a gun in a holster. In a 4-2 decision, the justices said the state law “regulates only one manner of bearing arms and does not impair the exercise of the fundamental right to bear arms.”

The justices wrote in their 47 page opinion:

“(We) agree with the 4th District and are satisfied that the state’s prohibition on openly carrying firearms in public with specified exceptions — such as authorizing the open carrying of guns to and from and during lawful recreational activities — while still permitting those guns to be carried, albeit in a concealed manner, reasonably fits the state’s important government interests of public safety and reducing gun-related violence.”

Justice Charles Canady and Justice Ricky Polston oppose the ruling, arguing that the law “collides with the Second Amendment right as understood” in a landmark 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a Washington, D.C. gun law.

In a 10 page dissension, Canady added:

“Of course, many people are made uncomfortable by the fact that others are permitted to keep and bear arms at all. But, contemporary sensibilities cannot be the test. Such sensibilities are no more a basis for defeating the historic right to open carrying than for defeating the understanding that the Second Amendment recognizes the right of individuals to keep and bear arms.”

The case used to challenge the decision came from the 2012 arrest in St. Lucie County of Dale Norman, who had a concealed-weapons license but was carrying a gun openly in a holster. A jury found Norman guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor, and a trial judge imposed a $300 fine and court costs. The case went before the 4th District Court of Appeal before ultimately going to the Supreme Court.

Justice Barbara Pariente said there is a difference between the Florida open-carry ban and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Washington, D.C. case and another case involving gun laws in Chicago.

Pariente wrote that unlike those laws “which completely banned the possession of handguns in one’s home, Florida’s open carry law regulates only how firearms are borne in public.”

“Because this law does not amount to an entire ban on a class of guns or completely prohibit the bearing of firearms in public and does not affect the right to keep arms in one’s home … we conclude that Florida’s open carry law does not severely burden the right,” she added.

Canady referred to the long period of time between the 1987 legislation and the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the 2008 case, known as District of Columbia v. Heller.

Canady wrote:

“More to the point, the Legislature decided that the sacrifice of open carrying was a necessary and appropriate response to the public opposition generated by the passage of the concealed-carry law. But the legal landscape has now dramatically shifted. Heller has settled that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to keep and bear arms. And Heller’s historical analysis points strongly to the conclusion that the individual right includes the right to carry arms openly in public.”