By: Mark N. Longwell, Longwell Lawyers. Attorney Longwell is a former prosecutor for the State of Florida, and the founder of the top-rated Orlando, Florida law firm, Longwell Lawyers. He has over 28 years of experience successfully handling thousands of criminal matters of all types, ranging from murders to misdemeanors, which has earned him the highest rating of AV Preeminent, from Martindale-Hubbell. He is a member of the Florida Bar, Federal Bar for the Middle District of Florida, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Central Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
As a former prosecutor and long practicing criminal defense attorney, I have seen countless well-intended people get into trouble because they didn’t fully understand the laws that apply to the possession of firearms in the State of Florida. If you are a gun owner, or plan on becoming one, here is an outline of the basic laws pertaining to gun possession in Florida.
Lawful Firearm Possession (Regardless of Concealed Firearm License):
Florida Statute 790.25 establishes lawful ownership, possession, and use of firearms in Florida. It permits the use or possession of firearms under specified, narrow circumstances, of which the most common are:
- A person engaged in fishing, camping, or lawful hunting or going to or returning from a fishing, camping, or lawful hunting expedition;
- A person firing weapons for testing or target practice under safe conditions and in a safe place not prohibited by law or going to or from such place;
- A person traveling by private conveyance when the weapon is securely encased or in a public conveyance when the weapon is securely encased and not in the person’s manual possession. “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.
- A person possessing arms at his or her home or place of business.
The list has numerous other provisions for members of the militia, law enforcement, and other obvious or exceptional circumstances (which I have omitted for brevity).
It is important to note that the law states that it shall be liberally construed to carry out the constitutional right to bear arms for self-defense.
Carrying Concealed Firearms:
Other than in the limited circumstances permitting lawful gun possession, as specified in Florida Statute 790.25, it is generally unlawful, and constitutes a felony, to carry a concealed firearm if you do not have a concealed firearm license, as codified in Florida Statute 790.01.
A person may obtain a Concealed Firearm License by meeting the requirements of Florida Statute 790.06, which (in pertinent part) requires the applicant:
- Is a resident of the United States and a citizen of the United States or a permanent resident alien of the United States;
- Is 21 years of age or older;
- Does not suffer from a physical infirmity which prevents the safe handling of a weapon or firearm;
- Is not convicted of a felony;
- Has not been found guilty of a crime relating to controlled substances within a 3-year period or committed for the abuse of a controlled substance;
- Does not chronically and habitually use alcoholic beverages or other substances to excess. It shall be presumed that an applicant chronically and habitually uses alcoholic beverages or other substances to excess if the applicant has been deemed a habitual offender, or has had two or more convictions for DUI, within the 3-year period immediately preceding the date on which the application is submitted;
- Desires a legal means to carry a concealed weapon or firearm for lawful self-defense;
- Demonstrates competence with a firearm by completing a firearms safety or training course;
- Has not been adjudicated an incapacitated person;
- Has not been committed to a mental institution;
- Has not had adjudication of guilt withheld or imposition of sentence suspended on any felony unless 3 years have elapsed since probation or any other conditions set by the court have been fulfilled, or expunction has occurred;
- Has not had adjudication of guilt withheld or imposition of sentence suspended on any misdemeanor crime of domestic violence unless 3 years have elapsed since probation or any other conditions set by the court have been fulfilled, or the record has been expunged;
- Has not been issued an injunction that is currently in force and effect and that restrains the applicant from committing acts of domestic violence or acts of repeat violence; and
- Is not prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm by any other provision of Florida or federal law.
Restrictions on Who May Possess a Firearm:
Notwithstanding the laws permitting lawful possession of a firearm, certain individuals are prohibited from possessing a firearm altogether, including:
- Anyone under the age of 18 years old;
- Felons and delinquents;
- Anyone subject to an injunction for Domestic Violence;
- Anyone convicted of Domestic Violence;
- Anyone who is under the influence of intoxicants;
- A person who has been adjudicated as mentally defective or committed to a mental institution;
- Anyone who is currently on probation or under any form of community supervision.
Restrictions on the Places Where You May Possess a Firearm:
According to Florida Statute 790.06(12)(a), possessing a firearm is prohibited, even with a concealed firearm license, in the following places:
- Any place of nuisance as defined in s. 823.05;
- Any police, sheriff, or highway patrol station;
- Any detention facility, prison, or jail;
- Any courthouse;
- Any courtroom, except that nothing in this section would preclude a judge from carrying a concealed weapon or determining who will carry a concealed weapon in his or her courtroom;
- Any polling place;
- Any meeting of the governing body of a county, public school district, municipality, or special district;
- Any meeting of the Legislature or a committee thereof;
- Any school, college, or professional athletic event not related to firearms;
- Any elementary or secondary school facility or administration building;
- Any career center;
- Any portion of an establishment licensed to dispense alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises, which portion of the establishment is primarily devoted to such purpose;
- Any college or university facility unless the licensee is a registered student, employee, or faculty member of such college or university and the weapon is a stun gun or nonlethal electric weapon or device designed solely for defensive purposes and the weapon does not fire a dart or projectile;
- The inside of the passenger terminal and sterile area of any airport, provided that no person shall be prohibited from carrying any legal firearm into the terminal, which firearm is encased for shipment for purposes of checking such firearm as baggage to be lawfully transported on any aircraft; or
- Any place where the carrying of firearms is prohibited by federal law.
Important note: A person licensed to carry a concealed firearm shall not be prohibited from carrying or storing a firearm in a vehicle for lawful purposes.
Open Carry and Improper Exhibition:
Generally, it is unlawful to openly carry a firearm in Florida, unless a person is licensed to carry a concealed firearm and briefly displays 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. Open Carry is permitted while hunting, fishing camping, at gun shows, or while target shooting, or while going to and from such activities. See, Florida Statutes 790.053 and 790.25(3).
Florida Statute 790.10 makes it is illegal to exhibit a firearm in the presence of one or more persons in a rude, careless, angry, or threatening manner, not in necessary self-defense.
Possessing a firearm in Florida is lawful in certain limited circumstances. Otherwise, it is unlawful to openly carry or improperly display a firearm, or to carry a concealed firearm. You can get a concealed firearms license, if you qualify, but you still face a long list of restrictions on where you can carry. Furthermore, certain individuals are prohibited by law to possess a firearm. AS such, it is important that you familiarize yourself with Florida Statute 790, in order to ensure that you don’t find yourself in an unintended run-in with the law.