Challenge to Florida’s open carry ban gets day in court

Challenge to Florida's open carry ban gets day in court

The Norman case involves that of a man who violated Florida law when his legally concealed gun was exposed by accident, but takes aim at the state’s ban on open carry as a whole. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday heard a case dealing with how the state regulates the open carry of firearms.

The case is an appeal of a 2012 second-degree misdemeanor conviction of Dale Norman, 24, who was found guilty by a lower court for the open carry of a weapon outside of his home after his handgun, which he had a concealed carry permit for, became visible. This resulted in a $300 fine and court costs.

In February 2015, a three-judge panel of the Florida 4th District Court of Appeals upheld the original conviction, citing that state laws against open carry do not, “destroy the core right of self-defense enshrined in the Second Amendment.”

This week the seven justices of the Sunshine State’s highest court heard a challenge to that decision backed by Florida Carry with support from the National Rifle Association in the form of an amicus brief.

Norman’s case argued state lawmakers erred in banning open carry, holding that in doing so, it forces those seeking to carry a gun for protection outside the home to first obtain a concealed carry permit.

“What they’ve done here, Your Honor, is they’ve taken it a step beyond regulating the manner to bear arms. They’ve actually denied the right to bear arms until a person seeks and obtains the government’s permission,” argued Norman’s attorney, Eric Friday, before the court. “This court would never stand for the idea of a training class, a fee and a 90 or maybe even a 120 day wait in order for a person to get a license to carry a camera to be a photojournalist. This court would not stand for that type of restriction of the First Amendment.”

The State’s argument, carried forth by Assistant Attorney General Heidi Bettendorf, is that if lawmakers wanted open carry in the state then it would be the law and that the Heller case, in which U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia held the Second Amendment had some limits, protects the existing ban.

“My opponent argues that the Constitutional right is the right to open carry outside the home. The State’s position is that the Constitutional right is the right to carry outside the home and so therefore you can reasonably regulate– under the Florida Constitution and under Heller— you can regulate the right to carry outside the home,” said Bettendorf.

Bettendorf further held that the legislature has declined to approve open carry proposals multiple times in the past two years.

Everytown for Gun Safety filed an amicus brief in support of the open carry restriction.

Florida is just one of five states in the country that ban open carry and are in the same club that includes California, New York, South Carolina and Illinois. Florida allowed open carry until 1977.

A decision is expected later this summer.