The Florida law allowing people to carry concealed weapons without a state permit goes into effect Saturday, prompting excitement among some gun owners — and alarm among people who fear a rise in gun violence.
Aside from the fierce debate over the merits of permitless concealed carry, it isn’t easy to know for sure just where people can and cannot bring concealed weapons. The law and accompanying rules are simple in some respects — but complex and hard to decipher in other ways.
“There’s a lot of confusion,” said state Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, D-Parkland, who opposed the new law.
Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw has taken to TV and social media to answer questions about it.
“There’s a lot of misunderstanding and fictitious information going around out there,” Bradshaw said in an episode of “The Lead,” a podcast produced by his agency. He discussed the law “so we don’t get people that are doing things that are not covered by the law but they think they are.”
Many Floridians have already been carrying concealed weapons with permits, and it isn’t clear how many more people will be added to their ranks as Florida becomes the 26th state to allow people to carry concealed weapons without receiving state permits.
As of May 31, there were 2.6 million concealed weapon/firearm licenses issued by the state, including 182,252 in Broward, 202,604 in Miami-Dade County and 143,011 in Palm Beach County.
Many of the people who know the law is changing are mistaken about what is and isn’t allowed, said Will Farrugia, director of training at Florida Firearms Training.
“There’s going to be in my opinion — and in the opinion of this company — a lot of issues for the first 30 to 60 days, with ill-informed individuals that are going to strap on all sorts of different weapons systems — rifles, shotguns, pistols — and walk around with them and not be compliant with Florida statutes,” Farrugia said.
“People are going to make mistakes. They’re going to make honest mistakes. It doesn’t change the fact that ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
Florida Firearms Training teaches 4,000 to 6,000 students a year at classes in Deerfield Beach, Lake Worth and Okeechobee.
The basic explanation of the law is that people will be able to bypass the permitting process, and carry concealed weapons without background checks, training — or ever having fired a gun before.
No open carry
The new law does not allow people to openly carry and display their weapons.
“One of the fictitious things that people think about this is that it authorizes a person to openly carry a firearm,” Bradshaw said. “Open carry in Florida is still illegal. You cannot openly carry a firearm. … You cannot walk down the street with a firearm openly displayed.”
Other law enforcement agencies also sought to disabuse people of the idea that open carry would now be legal.
“The Broward Sheriff’s Office believes it is important for the public to know this law does not allow the open carry of firearms in Florida,” spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright said via email.
As with many aspects of gun ownership, there are exceptions, Bradshaw said, such as for someone who is engaged in or traveling to fishing, camping, hunting or an approved target shooting range, Bradshaw said.
The firearm or weapon “must be concealed from the ordinary sight of another person, such as in a hidden holster in the body or in a bag purse or backpack,” the Miami Police Department wrote on twitter.
If someone catches sight of someone’s “concealed” weapon, that isn’t automatically a crime. The law provides that it is not illegal “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.”
Some gun owners are displeased with the entirety of the new law because it didn’t give them the open carry many desired, a loosening of gun regulations that advocates have labeled “constitutional carry.”
The change in the law lifted the permit requirement, but the rules about where a weapon may be legally carried haven’t changed.
Sometimes the regulations are perplexing. For example, there is no prohibition against having a concealed weapon at a park. But people are prohibited from bringing weapons into school buildings.
And people can bring weapons into many government buildings — but not to the meetings of governing bodies, such as city and county commissioners and school boards. Concealed carry is allowed at the state Capitol — but not at meetings of the state House, the state Senate, or their committees.
And concealed carry would normally be allowed at a library, but not if it’s being used as a polling place. (Concealed weapons are never allowed in election polling places.)
If you still have questions about the new permitless carry law, listen to Sheriff @RicBradshaw explain Florida’s new Permitless Concealed Carry Law that takes effect on July 1, 2023
— PBSO (@PBCountySheriff) June 26, 2023
Bars yes, restaurants no
The law clearly states that people can’t carry concealed guns in bars. They can carry them in restaurants, but not in the bars of restaurants.
Farrugia warned that the bar-restaurant distinction is likely to lead people to inadvertently violate the law.
If someone stops for lunch at a sports bar and they’re carrying their weapon, and they’re told there’s no seating in the restaurant but they can grab a spot in the bar, they’ll be breaking the law, he said.
State Rep. Michael Gottlieb, D-Davie, said he foresees “a tremendous uptick in violence” late at night at bars, fueled by the combination of people mistakenly thinking they can carry concealed weapons in bars and alcohol.
No weapons allowed
The law eliminated the requirement for a permit, but didn’t change the locations where people are not allowed to have weapons.
State law does not allow concealed weapons in:
- Police, sheriff’s or highway patrol stations; detention facilities, prisons or jails; courthouses and courtrooms (except judges can carry concealed weapons and allow others to do so in their courtrooms).
- School, college or pro athletic events, unless they’re related to firearms.
- Elementary or secondary school facilities or administration buildings or college or university facilities. (At colleges, students, employees or faculty members are allowed devices such as stun guns.)
- Secure areas of airports, unless they’re in cases so they can be checked as baggage.
- Federal property such as Post Offices.
- “Any place of nuisance,” which includes “a house or place of prostitution.”
Businesses are allowed to prohibit people from carrying concealed weapons in their establishments.
“You may not carry a firearm anywhere a private business or a property owner has prohibited the carry of that firearm,” Bradshaw said.
The state’s best known retailer, Publix, didn’t have any prohibitions posted at some South Florida stores this week. The supermarket chain, which operates in many southern states, asks customers on its website to refrain from openly carrying weapons (which isn’t allowed anyway in Florida.)
Weapons are not allowed at upscale shopping locations, such as Mizner Park in Boca Raton or at The Galleria in Fort Lauderdale.
In some states with permitless carry, Hunschofsky said, it’s common to see signs on the doors with a picture of a firearm and a line through it. “There’s going to be a lot more of those signs going up,” she said.
Farrugia agreed, adding that the new law might ultimately reduce the number of places where people can bring concealed weapons inside.
“The pro gun community is saying we have a right to be able to carry without a permit,” he said. “The business owners are now going to know there’s potentially going to be more people coming into their store with firearms with zero training, with zero background check, which in my opinion is going to encourage more of those businesses to post ‘no weapons or firearms’ signs.”
Though business owners can prohibit customers and employees from bringing weapons inside, a separate provision of state law allows people to leave the weapon locked in their cars. And they can’t be treated differently or even asked if they have weapons in their vehicles.
“You can prohibit a customer from possessing a firearm on your property, like in a store. You can’t restrict them from having it in their car, locked up in their car in your parking lot,” Hunschofsky said.
Although medical marijuana use is legal under Florida law, it is not allowed under federal law.
And even though prosecutions for possessing marijuana for recreational use are rare, especially in South Florida, its use is still illegal under federal and state laws.
“A lot of those guys that are doing medical marijuana or recreational marijuana don’t know that,” Farrugia said.
Gottlieb, whose occupation outside politics is criminal defense lawyer, said implications for marijuana users is “an interesting question.” Someone with a legal prescription and medical marijuana card “might be OK,” adding that “an illicit user technically would not be eligible to carry concealed.”
State Rep. Bobby Payne, R-Palatka, a sponsor of the legislation, said he’s heard from military veterans who were wounded in combat who use medical marijuana.
“I don’t have any advice on that,” Payne said, adding that someone who uses marijuana should seek the advice of a lawyer before carrying a weapon.
The new law requires people who carry concealed weapons to also carry valid identification. And they must show the ID to a police officer who asks.
Florida still will issue concealed carry permits for those who wish to have one. That’s especially useful for a Florida gun owner who travels to another state that requires a permit and has reciprocity with Florida.
Out-of-state people will be allowed to carry concealed weapons in Florida under the new law.
Coleman-Wright said convicted felons are still prohibited from owning or carrying a concealed firearm. And people with active risk protection orders and people convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence remain prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm.
And even though the lifting of the permit requirement means people don’t have to take the training that was required, Bradshaw said people who buy guns should get professional instruction.
“You need to know how to safely operate it,” the sheriff said. “Some of the automatic pistols out there today are pretty sophisticated.”
Starting July 1st, you can carry a concealed firearm without a Concealed Weapons License (CWL) in Florida. Know the restrictions and where you can or cannot carry a concealed firearm.
— Miami PD (@MiamiPD) June 29, 2023
Hunschofsky was mayor of Parkland in 2018, when the massacre happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were killed and 17 injured. (The shooter used a semiautomatic rifle, not a handgun.)
The new law “will not make our communities safer,” Hunschofsky said, adding she never heard complaints from gun-owning family, friends or constituents about the now-eliminated requirement for a background check or training.
“This was never something anybody asked me for,” Hunschofsky said.
A University of North Florida poll released in March found 77% of voters surveyed opposed permitless concealed carry, with 21% in support. Democrats opposed permitless carry 77% to 5% and Republicans were opposed, 62% to 36%.
Payne said he’s heard the concerns “of my good friends in South Florida.” But, he said, “the sky’s not falling.”
He described the legislation as eliminating a level of government interference. “It removes the state permission slip to carry a gun concealed.”
“If you couldn’t carry a gun before, you can’t now,” Payne said.
As evidence the previous background check was needed, GIFFORDs Florida cited the 7,605 Florida residents who were denied concealed carry permits because something in their history disqualified them between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022.
GIFFORDS is the gun violence prevention organization led by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was severely injured in a 2011 assassination attempt. The organization said states that have allowed more public carrying of weapons have seen more violent crime, including homicides committed with handguns.
Payne said he didn’t see that kind of an outcome.
“I think we’ll see very little change,” Payne said.
Gottlieb said he has concerns. “I don’t know that it’s going to become the Wild Wild West. But I do believe people should become more aware of their surroundings, and of individuals who might be possessing firearms,” he said.
He said he’s especially concerned about road rage. He expects more people will have easily accessible handguns in the trunks, glove boxes or other secure storage in their cars. “They’re going to get ticked off now, and they’re going to be popping off some shots.”
Anthony Man can be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter @browardpolitics and on Post.news/@browardpolitics.