Today, Governor Rick Scott signed SB 290 into law.
This bill, sponsored by Sen. Brandes in the Senate and Rep. Fitzenhagen in the House and supported by hard work from Florida Carry and the National Rifle Association, is important to gun owners statewide for two critical reasons:
1) The new law provides an exception for those in the process of fleeing a designated mandatory evacuation area. The exception is for a maximum 48 hours, which may be extended by the Governor, and provides that those affected may lawfully carry a concealed weapon or firearm on or about their person. The exception applies only to "the immediate and urgent movement of a person away from the evacuation zone within 48 hours after a mandatory evacuation is ordered". This will allow lawful gun owners to bring their guns with them during an emergency rather than being forced to leave them behind to fall in to the hands of looters or be destroyed in a disaster.
2) The legislation also corrected the structure of Florida Statute 790.01, the law that prohibits concealed carry.
In 2013 the Florida Supreme Court ruled that carrying a firearm or weapon, even with a license, is a crime to which the licensed person only has an "affirmative defense". This was because lack of licensure was not an element of the crime, merely an exception.
[F]lorida's legislative scheme causes us to hold that (concealed carry) licensure is an affirmative defense to a charged crime of carrying a concealed weapon, as codified at section 790.01, Florida Statutes (2013), and the lack of a license is not an element of the crime. This conclusion is based upon a clear reading of section 790.01 and consideration of its structure, the chapter of the Florida Statutes that governs firearms and other weapons, and the legal precedent on this issue.
Mackey v. State, 124 So. 3d 176, 181 (Fla. 2013)
The result was that Florida's law abiding concealed carry licensees could be treated like criminals, and even be arrested, for exercising their right to bear arms.
The new law also corrects this problem by now clearly stating that it only prohibits people who are not licensed from carrying concealed weapons or firearms.
790.01 Unlicensed carrying of concealed weapons or concealed firearms.-
(1) Except as provided in subsection (3), a person who is not licensed under s. 790.06 and who carries a concealed weapon or electric weapon or device on or about his or her person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
(2) Except as provided in subsection (3), a person who is not licensed under s. 790.06 and who carries a concealed firearm on or about his or her person commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
We offered this simple change to the law because it will help to ensure that people who hold Concealed Carry Licenses are not treated like common criminals.
The new law is effective immediately.