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Florida's New Unlicensed Concealed Weapon & Firearm Owners
Constitutional Carry Always Involves "Open Carry", Not So in Florida!
The main objective of this Florida Gun & Self-Defense article is to educate gun owners about Florida self-defense law and use of force law. Ignorance of the state and federal laws is not an excuse for unintentionally breaking those laws. It is gun owners’ responsibility to learn and abide by the law and practice safe gun handling accordingly. I am not a lawyer; if you need legal counsel secure a lawyer in your relevant jurisdiction. The following content is my opinion and interpretation derived from twelve years of online and self-education in Florida Self-Defense and Use-of-Force Law.
Memorize the Four Rules for Safe Firearms Handling. Mistakes will not occur by doing so. One, treat all guns as if they are always loaded with a round in the chamber, even when the gun is empty. Two, never point the muzzle at anything you ‘don’t’ want to destroy. Three, keep your finger off the trigger until your gun sights are on the intended target. Four, always be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
In addition, when you pull the trigger, think of all bullets as having a prosecutor and a very expensive lawyer attached to them. If you are unsure of any situations regarding gun usage or handling or what is lawful or unlawful, please refrain from carrying your firearm concealed until you have at least basic gun-handling training and education. One errant handling of your gun or unlawful act by mistake could ruin your life and the lives of others. Contact me, and I’ll point you in the right direction to give you the confidence to safely and legally operate your firearm.
Today’s firearms focus will address new Unlicensed Concealed Weapon and Firearms (UCWF) owners, who began to legally conceal carry weapons and firearms without a Concealed Weapon and Firearms License (CWFL) as of July 1, 2023. I began to write and publish articles on FloridaGunSelfDefense.net and created a business website FloridaGunSelfDefense.com, primarily for the purpose of providing essential information and training services for Florida’s new UCWF owners when Florida State Statute 790.01 took effect.
I covered this subject in July but now that the law has been in effect for the past four and a half months and I’ve engaged in many conversations regarding this new law, I thought it appropriate to write another article to provide my thoughts and opinions on the subject.
First let’s consider the new UCWF law. To generally understand this new law, think of it as the same as Fl. SS 790.06 Weapons and Firearms statute, minus the processing, training, and license requirements. In other words, “Legal Qualifying Persons” is still defined the same exact way. And these legal conditions and qualifications are still required, and you will be liable for them should you become involved in a self-defense situation resulting in an investigation. These personal requirements will be examined in detail.
With the enacting of the new law a few former firearms activities have become complicated. The big one being legal situations when you can legally open carry your firearm and what the actual legal definition and application of the term is now. So first let’s look at the revised statute which allows for a UCWF holder to conceal-carry a “weapon and or firearm”—they’re not the same thing.
S.S. 790.01 (1) A person is authorized to carry a concealed weapon or concealed firearm, as that term is defined in s. 790.06(1), if he or she: (a) Is licensed under s. 790.06; or (b) Is not licensed under s. 790.06, but otherwise satisfies the criteria for receiving and maintaining such a license under subsections. 790.06(2)(a)-(f) and (i)-(n), (3), and (10).
The six qualifying ‘criteria subsections’ in S.S. 790.06 in order: Must be a citizen or federally approved resident person, who is not a proven habitual drug addict, alcoholic or substance abuser, and is not a legally determined incapacitated or a debilitated handicapped person, or is not a prohibited person as determined by any state or federal law, or been convicted of violence crimes in the past three years, or any other disqualifying crime, or have never been committed to a mental institution. Note: I’ve condensed the statute down significantly, so you should read statute 790.06 for yourself.
(2) Except as provided in subsection (5), a person who does not meet the criteria in subsection (1) and who carries a concealed weapon (does not mean firearm) or electric weapon or device, as those terms are defined in s. 790.001, on or about his or her person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
(3) Except as provided in subsection (5), a person who does not meet the criteria in subsection (1) and who carries a concealed firearm, (does not mean weapon) as that term is defined in s. 790.001, on or about his or her person commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(4) In any prosecution for a violation of subsection (2) or subsection (3), the state bears the burden of proving, as an element of the offense, both that a person is not licensed under s. 790.06 and that he or she is ineligible to receive and maintain such a license under the criteria listed in s. 790.06(2)(a)-(f) and (i)-(n), (3), and (10). (Again, see six Criterion Subsections above)
(5) A person does not violate this section if he or she: (Abbreviated condensed content) (a) Is lawfully in possession of a concealed weapon or a concealed firearm, in the act of evacuating during a mandatory evacuation order issued during a state of emergency declared by the Governor within 48 hours after a mandatory evacuation is ordered. The 48 hours may be extended by an order issued by the Governor. (b) Carries for purposes of lawful self-defense, in a concealed manner: 1. A self-defense chemical spray. 2. A nonlethal stun gun or dart-firing stun gun or other nonlethal electric weapon or device that is designed solely for defensive purposes.
Now there is a great deal of confusion about this new law because some people have referred to this new law as Constitutional Carry (CC), which always means some form of legal ‘open carry’ and sometimes conceal carry prohibition is also included but not always, it depends on the state. Florida’s version of CC (if you refer to it as such) is the exact opposite, which is why it technically is not CC. This new law does not allow open carry at all under any situations (see S.S. 790.053). There used to be exceptions in specific conditions under the old law, please note the new revised statute:
S.S. 790.25 (2) Lawful Uses.—Notwithstanding ss. 790.01, 790.053, and 790.06, the following persons may own, possess, and lawfully use firearms and other weapons, ammunition, and supplies for lawful purposes if they are not otherwise prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm under state or federal law:
There is nothing mentioned about open carry here. The part, “Own, Possess, Lawfully Use” does not mean open carry. Instead, these four words are referring to the primary ownership status and manner of having in personal possession a weapon or firearm in seventeen specific subsections comprised of state officials, employees, and professions, military, law enforcement, firearms professionals, medical personnel, legal investigators, and seven subsections addressing a common “person” engaged in activities, such as, going to, during, and leaving, an outdoor sporting event such as fishing and hunting, common travel, sport shooting, or in the natural state of being at home or at your business.
In the past I’ve open-carried my sidearm holstered while going to, during, and coming from fishing, believing it was legal to do so. After reading the statute and reading lawyers’ books who specialize in gun and self-defense law, I’ve realized there is a legal risk in doing so, especially under this new law.
I believe the main reason for the change is that under the old law only CWFL holders could carry legally albeit concealed, thereby having a weapon in outdoor areas of considerable jeopardy and danger. So, the state provided personal protection in the form of ‘open carry’ for all lawful persons in those high-risk situations, such as fishing among apex predators, or protection when at your properties. Under the new law everyone who is lawful can carry concealed protection. Thus, no need to open carry a firearm. Unless it is essential to the event or situation.
I want to focus on how this ‘restricted definition’ applies to subsections h and n because I’ve encountered much confusion about open carry during these five commonplace situations.
(h) A person engaged in fishing, camping, or lawful hunting or going to or returning from a fishing, camping, or lawful hunting expedition;
The restricted legal definition of ‘open carry’ is not what someone does when they hunt, fish or camp. The words “lawfully use” in subsection (2) means ‘operate as designed, as in discharging or being ready and prepared to discharge a firearm. It doesn’t mean carrying in a holster in a constant open-carry manner, or in a pocket or case in a conceal carry manner. So, when on the way to hunt, fish, or camp, you can’t sling a rifle over your shoulder or open carry a pistol on your belt and travel to one of those three activities. But under the new law you can conceal carry without or with a CWFL, a pistol or firearm on your person or choose to securely encase the weapon and have it not readily available on your person.
(n) A person possessing weapons or firearms at his or her home or place of business;
Note that “open carry” is not included here either. And the term “possess” also does not mean ‘open carry’ but rather means the first definition of “possession” which is: to own, have, retain, keep, hold, carry, enjoy, which in the context of this subsection is addressing the right to naturally possess weapons and firearms at your home or place of business. If you are at your home or business lawfully using your firearms, to then be in accordance with the new law you must conceal carrying your weapon or firearm when possible, as the default manner of activity and when transporting said weapon or firearm within these situations, firearms should be encased.
But let’s say you’re lawfully target shooting or hunting on the property of your home or business, these activities are not considered part of the definition of open carry. Could you open carry side arms and sling a rifle over your shoulder as you walk through your property, I would think yes. But the law is ambiguously written and doesn’t really say anything which addresses these situations. So, I would play it safe and conceal if possible. This is one of the grey areas the new law created. There are sixty-seven counties in the state and all types of personal property with differing characteristics and settings, that legal jurisdictions might consider ‘unsafe’ for ‘using a firearm’ or even open carrying a firearm.
When faced with ambiguously written laws, I would caution you to err on the side of the least legal risk. I know that both the wording and my explanation seem somewhat confusing. I’m doing my best here, but the wording of the laws makes for a difficult task of determining the intention of the law. When the legislature wrote this new law, they made grey areas of legal uncertainty. So, play it safe and default to conceal carry or securely encased until you are engaging in a lawful activity or event involving weapon and firearm usage.
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The following are three Florida state statutes to learn and apply when you conceal carry.
790.013 Carrying of concealed weapons or concealed firearms without a license.—A person who carries a concealed weapon or concealed firearm without a license as authorized under s. 790.01(1)(b):
(1)(a) Must carry valid identification at all times when he or she is in actual possession of a concealed weapon or concealed firearm and must display such identification upon demand by a law enforcement officer. (b) A violation of this subsection is a noncriminal violation punishable by a $25 fine, payable to the clerk of the court. (2) Is subject to s. 790.06(12) in the same manner as a person who is licensed to carry a concealed weapon or concealed firearm.
As I wrote in last week’s article, there is ambiguous, confusing language, I believe was purposely used when writing many state statutes. These two statutes are cases in point. As a mental exercise, see how many different interpretations you can reasonably come up with when focusing on the words in bold. Perhaps I’ll address all the reasonably possible various scenarios that could be applicable to these statutes.
790.053 Open carrying of weapons. — (1) Except as otherwise provided by law and in subsection (2), it is unlawful for any person to openly carry on or about his or her person any firearm or electric weapon or device. It is not a violation of this section for a person who carries a concealed firearm as authorized in s. 790.01(1) to briefly and openly display the firearm to the ordinary sight of another person, unless the firearm is intentionally displayed in an angry or threatening manner, not in necessary self-defense.
(2) A person may openly carry, for purposes of lawful self-defense: (a) A self-defense chemical spray. (b) A nonlethal stun gun or dart-firing stun gun or other nonlethal electric weapon or device that is designed solely for defensive purposes. (3) Any person violating this section commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
Florida S.S. 790.10 Improper Exhibition of Dangerous Weapons and Firearms - If any person having or carrying any dirk, sword, sword cane, firearm, electric weapon or device, or other weapon shall, 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 so offending shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
I would like to make an appeal to all who are already, or are thinking about, carrying a concealed firearm under the new UCWF law. Take a minute and consider the advantages of a CWFL. Here are six very good reasons to consider before you dismiss getting a CWFL: One, you’ll be able to travel out of state and legally carry in states with reciprocity with Florida. Two, it informs law enforcement of your proven qualifications with all listed legal weapons per the law, due to the vetting process required to obtain a CWL. Three, it allows you to carry within 1000 feet of a school zone, and not be prosecuted per federal law. Four, you don’t have to wait three days when purchasing a firearm. Five, it allows you to carry concealed on property owned, rented, or lawfully used by a religious institution, even if there is a school on the premises, (F.S. 790.06(13)). Six, your ownership of a firearm is confidential and can no longer be disclosed in public records (F.S.,790.0601).
Sources Used for This Article: Jon H Gutmacher’s book, Florida Firearms Law, Use, & Ownership. 2023-2024 edition.
This article’s purpose is to incentivize the reader to learn the laws required for lawful gun usage. My hope is that all conceal carry gun owners will become legally proficient and physically capable to “Aim to Win the Physical and Legal Battles” should a self-defense situation occur.” Know the Law, Learn to Shoot.”
Today’s article is also published FloridaGunSelfDefense.com which is my business website.
Florida Gun & Self-Defense offers firearms and self-defense training and education. Single or group classes or customized training is available. Visit FloridaGunSelfDefense.com for more information. Or call Dave Douglass at 863-381-8474
Dave has been a firearms instructor and trainer since 2012. He is skilled in advanced tactical-gun and self-defense gun operation, in accordance with Florida gun law and use-of-force self-defense law. He is not a lawyer but has studied Florida Use-of-Force Law and Gun Law for the last twelve years. Dave’s articles are his interpretation and opinion and do not constitute legal advice for you. If you need legal advice, secure legal counsel in your relevant jurisdiction. Dave is an adamant supporter of an original historical literal interpretation of the Second Amendment. You can contact him at email@example.com