When a state permits both concealed and open carry of a firearm, no one worries too much should a firearm print against a shirt or be viewed if the breeze catches a vest and flips it just enough that a gun can be seen. While there are reasons to not want this to happen regardless, the police don’t get involved because of a momentary lapse.
In states without open carry, it causes some problems. One example is Florida, where a momentary flash of a holstered weapon can land a concealed carry holder in hot water.
A bill to try and fix that, however, was passed by a committee in their state legislature.
Under a proposal advanced in the state House this week, Floridians with a concealed carry license wouldn’t be criminally liable if their firearm is temporarily displayed.
The measure, HB 39, sped through the House Criminal Justice Sub-Committee Monday 9-4 with the sponsor of the bill arguing it is needed to keep well-meaning gun owners from being prosecuted — but made clear it is not an open carry proposal.
“What we are trying to do here is say that it is not criminal to accidentally show your weapon if you are a law-abiding citizen and you have this concealed weapons permit, so that’s the point of this,” said Majority Whip, state Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral.
Eagle’s bill would change the penalties under Florida law for an open carry violation, distinguishing between a violation by someone licensed to carry a concealed weapon and a violation by one without a license. Under the proposal, license holders who are charged with breaking the state’s ban on open carry would face a noncriminal violation and be liable for a $25 fine. Unlicenced open carriers would still face a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Those who only display a firearm briefly and in a non-threatening manner, or for use in self-defense, would not be in violation.
The bill hamstrings anti-gun authorities from punishing permit holders who are lawfully carrying a firearm. After all, most of us have printed or otherwise exposed the existence of a firearm on our person before. It’s not ideal, but it can happen, and all it takes is a zealous prosecutor to turn a momentary lapse in security into a crime.
Of course, Florida could easily deal with this by legalizing open carry and calling it a day.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think open carry is generally a good idea. I could recount all the reasons why, but I won’t. I wouldn’t be treading any new ground if I did. I don’t think it’s a good idea to do so, and you’ve already heard the reasons, I’m sure.
But that doesn’t mean I believe it should be illegal to open carry. The Second Amendment reads, in part, “the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Telling people they can’t openly carry a firearm is infringing on people’s right to carry. It’s not an outright ban, necessarily, but it is an infringement and should end.
However, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen right now, so this is a step in the right direction.