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Florida Supreme Court Upholds Open Carry Law

In a decision rendered last week, Norman v. State, the Florida Supreme Court rejected a Second Amendment challenge to Florida's "Open-Carry" law. The statute in question, section 790.053, prohibits individuals from visibly carrying firearms in public. Under the statutory scheme, a gun-owner must first obtain a license to carry a firearm in public. Even after they obtain a license, they still must conceal the firearm-for instance, in an article of clothing-when they are carrying. Failure to do so is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60-days' imprisonment and a $500 fine. The Open Carry law also contains sixteen exceptions, including one for bringing firearms on fishing, camping, or hunting expeditions.

The Norman case involved an individual who was charged under the Open Carry Law for walking along the highway with his handgun visibly holstered on his hip. Mr. Norman moved to dismiss his criminal charges, arguing that the statute infringed his Second Amendment Right to bear arms. The parties relied on two seminal Second Amendment cases decided by the Supreme Court-Heller v. District of Columbia and McDonald v. City of Chicago-both of which struck down laws that completely prohibited the use of operable firearms in public and in the home.

The Florida Supreme Court found that, while the statute regulated activity that constituted a "central component" of the Second Amendment, it ultimately withstood constitutional scrutiny. The Court noted that unlike the complete bans in the prior Supreme Court decisions, Florida law only regulated the way guns could be carried. Furthermore, the Florida laws only pertained to use of guns in public, rather than in the home where constitutional protections are greater. Given these considerations and the numerous exemptions incorporated into the statute, the Court found that the state's interest in public safety and reducing gun-related violence justified the regulation.

Not all of the Justices agreed with how the majority weighed the competing considerations at issue. Justice Canady dissented, arguing that the state's justifications were weak and that "open carrying stems not from concrete public safety concerns but from the fact that many people are (sensibly or not) made uncomfortable by the visible presence of a deadly weapon." The Norman decision only dealt with a single piece of Florida's firearm regulatory scheme, and given the divided opinion of the Court, other Second Amendment challenges may find greater success than Norman's.

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