If the butt or stock of a firearm is visible, does that mean I’m open carrying in Florida?
Updated: Mar 27, 2020
The open carrying of weapons is a misdemeanor in Florida
In Florida, it is a crime to openly carry a firearm. The misdemeanor crime of “open carrying of weapons” is committed when “any person ... openly carr[ies] on or about his or her person any firearm or electric weapon or device” except as provided by law. § 790.53(1) & (3), Fla. Stat. (2019).
In the Florida case Bethel v. State, an officer stated that he saw four inches of the butt of a gun sticking out of a man’s right pants pocket. The officer immediately recognized that the object was a handgun based on his experience of having seen thousands of handguns. The court held that the officer had probable cause to arrest the defendant for openly carrying on his person a firearm, in violation of section 790.053(1). Bethel v. State, 93 So. 3d 410, 413 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2012).
The above case deals with an individual who did not have a concealed carry permit and was suspected of criminal activity. The legal analysis may be somewhat different in the context of an individual legally licensed to carry who is not involved in criminal activity.
Nevertheless, the above case could technically be used by an overzealous prosecutor to argue that a visible butt of a handgun is probable cause of the crime of openly carrying a firearm. Therefore, if legally carrying in Florida, make every effort to keep the firearm concealed at all times.
The brief display of a firearm is not necessarily a crime for those with a concealed carry permit
Florida law also states that it is not a violation of law for a person licensed to carry a concealed firearm, who is lawfully carrying a firearm in a concealed manner, to briefly and openly display 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.
In other words, the accidental display of a firearm (such as one’s shirt briefly lifting and displaying the gun) or a brief, temporary display (such as when one is moving the gun from a concealed holster on one’s person to a carrying case in a car) is not a violation of Florida law. Of course, the temporary display cannot be done in a threatening or angry manner.
The attorneys of Soler & Simon have experience with Florida firearm law and in the defense of individuals charged with firearm related criminal offenses. Please visit our Florida Gun Law page for more information about concealed carry law in Florida.