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Your Right to Bear Arms

Posted: April 2010

A man with a gun in his pantsThe firearm laws are so contradictory and changing so often that if you ask 100 police officers, judges and lawyers what carrying a concealed firearm is, you will probably get 100 different answers. That isn’t because the law is unclear; it is because most people are unaware of the nuances to this law.

The law allows you to carry a firearm without a concealed weapons permit if the firearm is not on or about a person as to conceal the firearm from the ordinary sight of another person. What this law is saying is if you carry the firearm out in the open, you will not be violating the concealed firearms statute. However, another statute states “ If any person having or carrying any… firearm… in the presence of one or more persons, exhibit the same in a rude, careless, angry, or threatening manner, not in necessary self-defense, the person… shall be guilty of a misdemeanor…” for improper exhibition of a firearm.

The concealed weapons statute also has an exception that states that you are not in violation if the firearm is used for self-defense or other lawful purpose within the interior of a private conveyance, without a license, if the firearm or other weapon is securely encased or is otherwise not readily accessible for immediate use. Now the question comes up what does securely encased and not readily accessible mean. The statutes do not define what securely encased means, however, case law defines it as in a close compartment such as your glove compartment, center console or even a box with a lid on it. Readily accessible means “that a firearm or other weapon is carried on the person or within such close proximity … that it can be retrieved and used as easily and quickly as if carried on the person.”

The government is not taking firearm charges lightly. If a juvenile is caught carrying a firearm, the state is now charging them as an adult. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has recently started taking over many firearm cases from the State Attorney’s Office. This change has caused cases to be charged in Federal Court, defendants having federal convictions and serving time in a federal prison.

In 1999, the Florida Legislature passed sweeping legislation that provides for enhanced minimum mandatory prison terms for offenders who commit crimes with guns which is the 10-20-LIFE. This law requires a minimum, mandatory 10 year prison term for certain felonies, or attempted felonies in which the offender possesses a firearm or destructive device, 20 years when the firearm is discharged, 25 to LIFE if someone is injured or killed, 3 years for possession of a firearm by a felon. Furthermore, it mandates that the minimum prison term is to be served consecutively to any other prison sentence imposed.

There is a simple solution to avoiding felony firearm charges by applying for a concealed weapons permit. The permit is inexpensive and as part of the process one has to complete some form of firearm training program. By obtaining this permit, it is a win-win situation where one can avoid criminal charges and at the same time learn firearm safety to protect themselves and others. There are several qualifications to obtaining a concealed weapons permit besides the class which include but are not limited to, one cannot be a convicted felon, be incapacitated, one cannot have a domestic violence charged, no injunctions against them, and several other requirements set out by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

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