This guide is intended to educate, you, and any other person who already does, or is considering carrying a firearm with them for self-defense. There is a lot of information in this guide but it is designed so you can read it through from beginning to end, or skip to a particular question which you may have. DISCLAIMER: This guide is meant as a general reference only; do not rely on this as legal advice.
- WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CARRYING A GUN IN FLORIDA
Many people in Florida have a concealed weapons permit, or maybe applying for one which allows them to carry a firearm for self-defense purposes. Those applying and many people having this permit, have limited knowledge what this permit allows them to do, or where it allows them to carry their firearm. Many firearms course instructors are unsure about "all" the laws that attach to the permit as well.
- WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO CARRY A CONCEALED FIREARM?
Reading the above question may reveal an obvious answer given the common definition of each term. But remember, we are dealing with the law which does not always use common, or even clear definitions. A concealed firearm is "any firearm…which is carried on or about a person in such a manner as to conceal the firearm from the ordinary sight of another person". Fl Stat s. 790.001(2). The Florida legislature has made it a third degree felony to carry a concealed firearm if unlicensed. See Fl Stat. s.790.01. As a practical matter, carrying a concealed weapon means that the weapon is carried under one's shirt, in one's pocket, or in some other place that a passerby cannot readily see it.
- WHAT ARE THE QUALIFICATIONS TO GET A CONCEALED CARRY LICENSE?
In order to legally carry a firearm with you, you must have a license issued pursuant to Fl Stat. s. 790.06. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is the agency responsible for issuing the concealed carry license. The requirements for obtaining a license is as follows:
1. You must be a resident and citizen of the United State
2. You must be at least 21 years old
3. You cannot suffer from a disability which renders you unable to hand a firearm safely
4. You cannot be a convicted felon
5. You cannot have been convicted of a controlled substance crime under Chapter 893
6. You cannot chronically and habitually use alcoholic beverages
7. You want a firearm for self-defense purposes only
8. You must demonstrate competence with a firearm
9. You must not be incapacitated under s. 744.331
10. You cannot have been committed to a mental institution
11. You cannot have been sentenced for a crime of domestic violence within past 3 years
12. You cannot be subject to an injunction
13. You cannot be prohibited by any other law, state or federal, from possessing a firearm
- HOW LONG IS MY CONCEALED CARRY LICENSE VALID FOR?
Your concealed carry license is valid for a period of seven (7) years within the state of Florida. While other states share reciprocity with Florida, the length of time that may vary from state to state.
- WHERE DO I NEED TO KEEP MY LICENSE?
You should keep you license in your purse or wallet at all times. You must have your license on you, along with valid identification, any time you are carrying a concealed weapon or firearm. You also must show a law enforcement officer that requests it your license and valid identification.
- CAN I CARRY MY FIREARM OPENLY?
NO! That is the safest answer anyway. Statute 790.053 expressly forbids "any person to openly carry on or about his or her person any firearm". However, 790.053 goes on to say that a person that has a valid concealed carry license, and who is lawfully carrying a concealed firearm, may "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." So the statute allows you to briefly show your buddy the firearm or show the firearm if acting in self-defense, but you cannot show the firearm because someone has angered you or you want to put the other person in fear. The statute also allows open carrying of a firearm when going to or returning from a hunting or fishing expedition. Regardless of the exceptions, the safest thing to do is keep your gun concealed unless it becomes absolutely necessary to use it in self-defense or transport it for hunting/fishing.
- CAN I CARRY MY CONCEALED FIREARM ANYWHERE?
For the most part you can take your firearm almost anywhere you go, so long as it stays concealed. There are some very specific places that you cannot take a firearm even if you are lawfully carrying it in a concealed manner. The Florida legislature has forbidden concealed firearm or weapon carry in the following places:
1. A place of nuisance (house of prostitution or gang activity)
2. Any police department, sheriff's office, or highway patrol station
3. Any detention facility, prison, or jail
4. Any courthouse or courtroom
5. Any polling place
6. Any meeting used by a county, school board, municipality, or special district
7. Any meeting of the legislature or committees
8. Any school, college, or professional athletic event
9. Any elementary or secondary school
10. Any career center
11. Any establishment that serves alcoholic beverages as its main purpose
12. Any college or university facility
13. Any airport
14. Anywhere federal law prohibits the carrying of firearms
There are few comments to be made about a few of the places on this list. First, you may take a firearm to an airport for the purposes of declaring the firearm for storage and travel so long as it is properly encased; you may not take a firearm into the secure or sterile part of an airport.
Second, make special note of a "polling place". A building in which you may otherwise be allowed to carry your gun may become a prohibited area while it is being used for polling (i.e., your local church, community center, etc.).
Finally, the trickiest one is an establishment that serves alcoholic beverages as its main business purpose. This, in non-legalese, is a bar, tavern, or pub. These establishments make a profit by selling alcoholic beverages—you cannot carry your firearm into these places. However, it gets trickier when you are talking about a restaurant that has a bar in it. The prohibition also extends to the "portion" of a business whose sole purpose is to serve alcoholic beverages. The safest thing to do is stay in the restaurant portion of the establishment and do not sit at or in the bar area. These prohibitions do not do not prevent someone from lawfully having a firearm in their vehicle. See 790.06 for more details.
- WHAT ARE SOME BENEFITS OF HAVING A CONCEALED CARRY LICENSE?
First and foremost, you are able to lawfully carry a gun with you in case it is needed for self-defense purposes. Second, you do not have to wait the mandatory 3-day waiting period normally required when purchasing a firearm. You may walk into your local gun store, purchase your gun of choice, and walk out with it that day.
- DO I HAVE TO HAVE A LICENSE TO CARRY A FIREARM?
No, there are times that a person does not need a license to possess, own, or use a firearm. One is when a person is fishing, hunting, or camping or going to or returning from one of these activities. A person may also take a firearm to a firing range or target practice area. You may also keep a firearm in your home, business, or car.
- WHERE CAN I KEEP MY GUN IN MY CAR?
This is a question commonly asked, but rarely able to be answered. You may keep, with or without a license, a firearm in your "private conveyance", otherwise known as a vehicle. Fl. Stat. s. 790.251(5) states "it is lawful and is not a violation of s. 790.01 for a person 21 years of age or older to possess a concealed firearm or other weapon 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." The important, and most often misunderstood, parts of this provision are the phrases "securely encased" and "not readily accessible".
"Securely encased" means in a glove compartment, whether or not locked; snapped in a holster; in a gun case, whether or not locked; in a zippered gun case; or in a closed box or container which requires a lid or cover to be opened for access. Fl. Stat. 790.001(17) (emphasis added). An important note in the list underlined previously is that whatever you keep your gun in it must be closed but not necessarily locked.
Now, there is the second option of storing your gun in your vehicle where it is not "readily accessible for immediate use". "readily accessible for immediate use" is when "a firearm or other weapon is carried on the person or within such close proximity and in such a manner that it can be retrieved and used as easily and quickly as if carried on the person." Fl. Stat. 7903001(16).
Keep in mind, this statute does not require you to carry your firearm securely encased and not readily accessible for immediate use; the statute states that either way is lawful. Also, if you do have a concealed carry license, remember, that you can carry it in any place but for those listed previously.
- IS THERE ANY TIME I CANNOT CARRY MY GUN?
You may generally carry your firearm or weapon with you with the exceptions stated in other questions in this guide. One very important thing to remember is that you may not use a firearm while "under the influence of alcoholic beverages, any chemical substance set forth in s. 877.111, or any substance controlled under chapter 893, when affected to the extent that his or her normal faculties are impaired." Fl. Stat. s. 790.151. So, if you are celebrating Fourth of July or New Years, do not think you can go to the firing range or shoot some targets on your property if you have been drinking heavily. However, 790.151(5) states you are still allowed to use a firearm, even if under the influence, when you are lawfully defending yourself or your property.
- CAN MY EMPLOYER TELL ME I AM NOT ALLOWED TO CARRY A GUN?
The general answer is no, an employer, public or private, cannot prohibit you from lawfully possessing a gun, whether lawfully on your person or in your vehicle. Fl. Stat. s. 790.251(4). As always in law, there are exceptions to this general rule. 790.251(7) lays out specific places you may not possess a firearm; keep in mind this generally applies to the parking lot of the listed places. These places are:
1. Any school
2. Any correctional institute
3. Any nuclear power facility
4. Any facility used for national defense, aerospace technology, or homeland security
5. Any facility or property where explosive or combustible material is stored, used, or manufactured
6. Any vehicle leased or rented by an employer
7. Any facility where federal law or contract prohibits the possession of a firearm
The easiest way to answer this is by checking out Florida Division of Licensing's list. Remember, even though a state my recognize Florida's license, does not mean that the laws are the same. If you plan on traveling with your firearm, take the time to research individual states you will be visiting.
- WHAT STATES HAVE RECIPROCITY WITH FLORIDA?