In the past months, the world has seen many changes. From COVID-19 measures to social unrest, the first half of 2020 has altered the status quo. With nationwide protests in response to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmad Arbery, cities are taking measures to protect their citizens and property. In the Florida cities of West Palm Beach and Riviera Beach and the town of Palm Beach, a state of emergency has been declared.
In these jurisdictions, state law places restrictions on firearms. In an effort to keep protests peaceful, Florida’s state of emergency statutes prevents gun sales and regular citizens from bringing firearms onto public property. As such, this creates difficulties for law-abiding citizens who are unaware of these changes.
The Law, In Context
Florida law has unique provisions for the state of emergency orders. First, gun shops cannot sell or display ammunition or firearms during the state of the emergency order. Second, private citizens cannot have “intentional possession” of a firearm in a public place, unless they are authorized as law enforcement or military members.
However, this clause only applies to jurisdictions where the state of emergency declaration is in order. So that means that a Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, or Riviera Beach citizen can purchase a firearm in a neighboring jurisdiction without a state of the emergency order. Assuming the purchaser and dealer abide by the law, this is entirely legal. Furthermore, there may be leniency for misunderstandings and citizens still on private property.
Still, this gun ban measure is nothing more than a logistical deterrent for gun sales. If a private citizen wants to buy a gun, they can easily do so outside of the given jurisdiction.
Although this statute is meant to prohibit peaceful protests from spiraling out of control, problems may arise when transporting or carrying said purchases into a state of emergency jurisdiction. Current demonstrations are protesting against police brutality, so this law may add fuel to the fire.
As gun violation attorney Douglas I. Leifert, Esq. points out, some charges may be filed based on misunderstandings or as a crowd control tactic.
“With a new set of circumstances, lawful gun owners may accidentally get into legal trouble for possessing their firearm during a state of emergency,” Attorney Brian Leifert of Leifert & Leifert said. “Whether you unknowingly violate the statute or bring a weapon to a protest, it’s important to contact an experienced Florida gun violation attorney. Doing so can help you understand the severity of your offenses and examine your options.”
While Florida states that a gun-owning citizen must be charged with “intentional possession” in a public place during the state of civil unrest, there is no definitive definition for the term. This creates an extra hoop to jump through for legal Florida gun owners in the state of emergency areas.
Some may argue this Florida statute violates the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. After all, perhaps the original intent of the Second Amendment was to protect gun rights during times of civil unrest. Conversely, others contend these protections are needed to prevent armed conflict from escalating out of control. The Second Amendment can only go so far to protect citizens’ rights to use firearms and preserving a peaceful protest may be enough to maintain the statute.
To consider another perspective, this statute may hurt citizens who venture into a public space trying to protect their private property. Some business owners may fear the protests will turn into looting, which raises additional panic and stress during the state of emergency. The statute is vague in meaning and gun owner intent, causing additional discrepancies.
The Florida state of emergency statutes is prone to different interpretations and implementations. Especially during a time when police conduct has come into question, these charges could be controversial.
As Douglas Leifert says, contact an attorney if you fall into a state of emergency gun charge trouble. This is a unique statute and requires different standards of evidence. With the help of an experienced Florida gun lawyer, you can better understand your case and the possible legal defenses to fight your charge. In a time of uncertainty, do not hesitate to pick up the phone and call today