The United States of America is unique to most western democracies in that it has the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment grants people the right to bear arms. Despite the common myth that the Second Amendment allows for an absolute right to gun ownership, individual states may place restrictions on gun ownership in conformity with the Second Amendment jurisprudence of the United States Supreme Court. Florida is a pro-gun state and therefore has few restrictions to gun ownership. The restrictions that are in place can have major legal consequences for those who violate those restrictions. In this article, we will discuss Florida gun laws and what you need to know to avoid criminal liability.
Is Gun Ownership A Right In The State Of Florida?
The U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights enshrines the right to gun ownership in the Second Amendment. Moreover, the United States Supreme Court reaffirmed this right in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008). In this case, the court ruled that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to bear arms regardless if they served in a government militia. That is, as long as the ownership of the guns were for lawful purposes. In addition, the Florida State Constitution ensures that nobody may infringe on gun ownership except for official state regulations. In other words, the Florida constitution leaves open for the Florida State Legislature, under state statutes, the ability to decide who cannot have access to a firearm.
Does Florida Regulate Gun Ownership?
Despite the friendly attitude towards gun ownership that people know Florida for, the state has regulated gun ownership. Under Florida Statute 790.06, the state restricts gun ownership to the following individuals:
- Anyone under the age of 21.
- Anyone who has an impairment that prevents them from safely operating a gun
- Has lost their civil rights due to a felony conviction
- Anyone who has a protective judgment issued against them
- Known drug or alcohol addicts
- Anyone admitted into a drug or alcohol rehab facility in the previous three years
- Anyone admitted into a mental institution in the previous three years.
How Does A Person Lawfully Obtain A Gun In The State Of Florida?
While you don’t need a permit to own a gun in Florida, you do need a permit to carry a gun in a concealed manner.
The requirements to obtain a concealed weapons permit in the State of Florida is as follows:
- 21 years of age or older
- United States Citizen or a permanent legal resident
- Must not have lost the right to carry under both federal and state law
In addition, the applicant must pay a licensing fee, submit fingerprints for a criminal background check, and demonstrate competency on firearm use and safety, usually done by taking a firearm course with a licensed professional.
Does A Concealed Weapons Permit Apply To Any Weapon?
Under Florida law, a concealed weapons permit applies to handguns, electronic weapons such as tasers, tear gas, knives, and billy clubs. Even if a person has a concealed weapons permit, there are still restrictions. In most instances, they cannot carrying those weapons into certain areas such as courthouses, government buildings, banks, schools, airports. This extends to any locations where federal, state, or local laws prohibit weapons.
Does Florida Offer Reciprocity With Other States?
Florida offers reciprocity with thirty-six other states. It is important to note that despite reciprocity being offered, the firearm laws may differ from state to state, and it is the responsibility of the carrier to ensure they are adhering to the laws of the other states.
Potential Firearms Charges
Under Florida law, a weapons charge can either be a misdemeanor or a felony. The most common weapons charges in the State of Florida are as follows:
- Unlawful possession of a firearm
- Unlawful discharge of a firearm
- Illegal sale or transport of a firearm
- Carrying a concealed firearm without a permit or in a restricted area
- Possession of a stolen firearm
- Illegal manufacturing of a firearm
Furthermore, as stated above, minors, convicted felons who have not had their rights restored, drug or alcohol addicts, or that ruled incompetent may also be charged with the unlawful possession of a firearm.
What Are The Penalties For Illegal Firearm Usage?
Contrary to popular belief, Florida has severe penalties for violating the above-mentioned weapons charges. Florida has mandatory sentencing laws and fines. Depending on the severity of the weapons charge, a person may be charged with a felony and lose other civil rights, such as the right to vote.
How Does Florida’s “10-20-Life” Impact A Weapons Charge?
Under Florida’s “10-20-Life” law, the use of a weapon may enhance the punishment. For example, if the weapon was used in a commission of a crime, then the perpetrator can be punished up to ten years of prison. If the weapon was discharged during the commission of a crime, then the weapons charge is increased to twenty years, and if another person is injured or killed during the commission of the crime, then the perpetrator may receive twenty-five to life.
Facing Weapons Charges In Florida
Like any crime, when a person is charged with a weapons charge, the burden is on the state attorney to prove certain elements were met. In order for a person to be convicted, the following elements must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt on a concealed-carry charge:
- The defendant had the intent to carry a firearm or weapon and
- The firearm or weapon was purposely concealed
In order for the state attorney to prove these elements, they do not have to show that the firearm or weapon was in the defendant’s hands but in their possession, such as the glove compartment of their car or in a bag that belonged to them. Also, to show that the weapon was purposely concealed does not mean it was completely hidden. For example, if they brandished the weapon as a threat and then placed it back into their glove compartment, that would be sufficient to meet this burden.
Contact Valrico Law Group
Like any criminal charge, a weapons charge is a serious matter that may have long-lasting effects on you and your family. If you or a loved one have been charged in Florida with a weapons charge, seek legal counsel immediately. The experienced criminal attorneys at Valrico Law Group will work to establish a legal strategy that will protect you and your rights while seeking the best possible outcome for you and your family.