Posted on September 21, 2018 in General
Florida gun law is a heated, politically charged topic in 2018. With the mass shooting count almost higher than the number of days so far this year, gun legislation has been a prominent point of discussion amongst politicians and citizens alike. Florida has been at the center of many of these conversations, being the location of the deadliest mass shooting (17 deaths in the Parkland school shooting) so far this year as well as for its comparatively lax gun laws.
Who Can Purchase and Carry a Gun in Florida?
Florida’s gun laws control who can purchase a firearm, who can qualify for a concealed carry permit, where permit-holders can carry their guns, and other firearm-related rules. The notoriously relaxed laws regarding gun purchase and ownership in Florida have given it a reputation as one of the most gun-friendly states in the country, along with Texas and Wyoming. Although gun laws are always changing, the following are a few of the most basic rules and restrictions as of 2018:
- It is legal to purchase a firearm from a private dealer in Florida without a background check. A background check is also not a requirement when registering firearms. When purchasing from a public place such as a gun show, the law requires background checks and a three- to five-day waiting period (unless the buyer has a concealed carry permit). There are no background check exemptions.
- You do not need a license or permit to buy a firearm in Florida. It is not mandatory to register guns that you own. There is also no limit on the number of firearms you can purchase in a single transaction through a private dealer. You must be at least 21 to purchase a firearm, unless you’re in law enforcement or the armed forces.
- A concealed carry permit allows Florida gun owners to take their weapons – concealed, not openly – into state parks, state and national forests, rest stops, and some restaurants. Permit holders do not have to inform police officers that they are carrying a weapon. You do not need a concealed carry permit in Florida to carry a gun in your vehicle if the weapon has a secure case.
- To receive a concealed carry permit for a handgun, an applicant must be at least 21 years old, complete a firearms training course, be a U.S. citizen or legal alien, reside in the U.S., and have no violent criminal convictions or two or more DUI convictions within the last three years. A permit costs $97 and is valid for seven years.
Even with a concealed carry permit, gun owners cannot carry firearms into police or highway patrol stations, jails or other detention facilities, courthouses, polling places, any government meeting, any school or college event, any elementary or secondary school, any establishment with an alcohol license, any vocational-technical center, any college or university, inside an airport, or any place of nuisance. Currently, there are 1,784,395 active concealed carry permits in the state of Florida.
Legal Status of “Brandishing” in Florida
Most states prohibit firearm owners from displaying their weapons in such a way as doing so would cause panic or disruption in the public. Florida has a specific law against the unlawful brandishing or improper display of firearms and dangerous weapons. Section 790.10 of the Florida Weapons and Firearms Code dictates the penalties for brandishing violations.
In Florida, exposing a dangerous weapon in a rude, careless, threatening, or angry manner in the presence of others qualifies as a first-degree misdemeanor offense, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000. The offender may also need to pay court fees, legal fees, and other administrative costs related to the offense. Multiple convictions on similar grounds would likely lead to more severe penalties, potentially including heavier fines and jail time.
A firearm owner may feel tempted to brandish his or her weapon to defuse a potentially dangerous situation or to discourage another person from starting a conflict. It is vital to remember that Florida has a Stand Your Ground law intended to manage these situations. Brandishing a firearm to stop another person from harming you is a legal use of force; brandishing a weapon to threaten another person when that person does not pose an immediate threat of bodily harm or death is not.
Exhibition of Weapons in Florida
Florida does not outlaw “brandishing” by name, but the state does forbid improper exhibition of firearms. The situation generally dictates whether producing a carried weapon is legal in Florida.
- If another person approaches you carrying a visible weapon or making threatening statements directed at you, it would be legal to produce your firearm or other weapon to discourage the attack or defend yourself.
- While in public, if another person produces a weapon and starts threatening another person or starts shooting or harming others, it would be legal to produce a firearm in self-defense or the defense of others.
- If you get into an argument with another person, producing a weapon with the intent of quelling the disagreement would be illegal if the other person posed no threat of immediate physical danger or death.
- Using a firearm in the defense of the home is perfectly legal in Florida, and homeowners have no duty to retreat. This means a homeowner can lawfully use deadly force against an intruder.
- Florida does not have an open carry law. Technically, carrying a visible firearm could constitute a violation of Florida’s law against the improper exhibition of weapons. Gun owners may only carry weapons in public with a qualifying concealed carry permit, and the individual’s weapon and holster must meet applicable state regulations. However, gun owners may openly carry firearms in their homes and places of business.
- Open carry is legal in Florida only while traveling to or from legal target shooting, hunting, and camping expeditions. However, open carry is illegal in vehicles. A gun owner must keep his or her firearm in an enclosed container while driving.
All Florida gun owners must know their state’s laws concerning weapon ownership, carrying, and proper exhibition of their weapons. Failure to abide by these laws could lead to criminal penalties including fines, jail time, and restrictions on firearm-related rights. A first violation of Florida’s law against improper exhibition of firearms may only lead to a fine. Subsequent violations will incur harsher penalties, potentially escalating to felony charges punishable by jail time and thousands of dollars in fines.
Firearm owners have a legal duty to keep and use their weapons appropriately. Florida law respects the Second Amendment and is generally relaxed compared to gun regulations in other states. Ultimately, the only time a firearm owner should brandish his or her weapon in view of others is in response to an immediate recognizable threat of harm or death from another person.
When Is It Legal to Use Force?
According to the 2018 Florida Statutes, Section 776.013 (also known as the Stand Your Ground law), a person has the right to stand his or her ground and use force if that person is rightfully in a dwelling. A homeowner, for example, has no duty to retreat and may use a gun or other weapon to defend him/herself from an intruder. The law gives Floridians the right to use non-deadly force as much as necessary for self-defense, and deadly force if the person reasonably believes it is necessary to prevent great bodily harm or imminent death.
Florida law justifies using a gun or other deadly force against someone else in a residence or dwelling if that person unlawfully and forcefully entered or was in the process of doing so. The law does not apply to police officers or other law enforcement officers who attempt to enter a dwelling or vehicle in performance of official duties. The Florida Stand Your Ground law has expanded to include public places as long as the person using force to defend him/herself was on the property legally. In essence, it is legal to use deadly force such as a gun if it’s self-defense. If you were injured by a gun unlawfully, you may have a case in your hands. Speak to a personal injury lawyer for more information.