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Group asks Florida Supreme Court to abolish ban on openly carrying guns

Updated: June 8, 2016 6:05 p.m.

By Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News

 

TALLAHASSEE — A lawyer for a Fort Pierce man who was convicted of openly carrying a handgun in public insists Florida should have no regulations that restrict people from carrying weapons throughout the state.

Jacksonville attorney Eric Friday told the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday that client Dale Norman was exercising his Second Amendment right to protect himself as he walked along a Fort Pierce street in 2012.

He was arrested on suspicion of a violation of a state ban against openly carrying weapons in public and was subsequently convicted in St. Lucie County Circuit Court.

Friday, who is also the attorney for gun rights group Florida Carry, told the high court the Second Amendment and U.S. Supreme Court case law allows law-abiding people to carry a weapon without any regulation.

"If you're legally allowed to own firearms then you're legally allowed to carry them," Friday told the court.

The state's only gun control is its concealed weapon permit program.

Florida Assistant Attorney General Heidi Bettendorf told the court that program was within the Second Amendment and that it is supported by case law from the U.S. Supreme Court.

There are also provisions in state law that permit people to openly carry a weapon without license if they face an immediate threat.

"The state agrees to the right to carry outside the home, but there's nothing wrong with the concealed carry program," Bettendorf said.

Friday said the state's application process to receive a concealed weapon permit was the same constitutional violation as requiring journalists to apply for licenses, too.

The rights of journalists are protected by the First Amendment, and the profession requires no license.

"This court would never stand for a training class and a fee and a 180-day wait for someone to get a license to carry a camera and be a photojournalist," Friday said.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga dismissed Friday's comparison.

"Yes, but I don't think journalists with cameras kill people, do you?" Labarga said.

Florida is one of four states that ban people from openly carrying guns in public.

There was a bid by state lawmakers during this year's legislative session that would have abolished the ban, but that plan died in the Senate.

A House version of the bill passed with a full chamber vote, but the Senate version was denied a committee hearing by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami.

At the time, Diaz de la Portilla said the law did not promote safety for the state, and Senate bill sponsor Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, was unwilling to agree to any amendments that would have weakened it.

The state Supreme Court agreed to hear Norman's case in October, breathing new life into the push by gun rights groups such as Florida Carry and the NRA to expand the rights of Florida gun owners.

Friday expects the high court to come back with a decision in the next three to six months.

Source: http://www.naplesnews.com/news/state/group-asks-florida-supreme-court-to-abolish-ban-on-openly-carrying-guns-34c7dfd1-0969-3091-e053-0100-382245221.html

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