Orlando, the United States, and the world at large were severely shaken after 49 people were killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando earlier this month. The largest mass shooting in The United States’ history sparked discussions about LGBT rights, the threat of ISIS, and gun control legislation.
The gunman used an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle and a 9mm handgun during his three-hour killing spree at Pulse. The rifle had a magazine capacity of 30 rounds. The AR-15 one of the most popular guns on the market. Many people want this AR-15, and many people can get it legally, just like gunman did a week before the massacre at Pulse.
That’s right. He obtained the weapons he used to commit one of the deadliest massacres in American history by just strolling into a store.
What Exactly Are Florida’s Weapons Restrictions?
Florida and its legislature remains very adamant about the right to bear arms and offer looser restrictions on gun control. However, the state does have laws on who can and cannot purchase, own, or carry different guns and dangerous weapons. We’ve written before about the consequences of getting caught with a weapon in Florida, and those consequences are very serious.
But what rules exist to keep Floridians from buying a gun in the first place?
Felony Conviction – Before you can purchase a gun in one of Florida’s licensed gun stores, you will have to fill out a background check. The background check will ask you if you’ve been convicted of a felony. If you have been, you’re out of luck. Those convicted of misdemeanors do not have this restriction – with one exception.
Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Conviction – If your misdemeanor charge involved domestic violence, you will not be able to purchase a gun in Florida.
Mental Illness – In 2013, Florida expanded its restrictions on gun purchases. Previously, only people who were involuntarily committed to a facility for mental illness couldn’t buy a gun, but the current legislation also makes it illegal for people who have voluntarily checked into a mental health facility to pass a background check. If you have a certificate from a psychiatrist that states you have been freed from your disability for over five years, however, you will still be allowed to purchase a gun.
These rules also apply to people who have been committed to rehab facilities for substance abuse or addiction.
Citizenship Restrictions – If you have illegal alien status or have renounced your United States citizenship, you will not be able to purchase a firearm in Florida.
What Permits Are Required for Gun Ownership?
In Florida, you do not need a special permit to purchase or carry a long gun (rifles and shotguns, including the AR-15), and there is no waiting period involved to buy this kind of firearm. You do need a Concealed Weapons permit to carry a handgun in our state, though, and there is a three-day waiting period for handguns.
Having a Concealed Weapons permit does not exempt you from a background check. To obtain a permit, you must be over the age of 21, demonstrate that you are physically able to use a handgun safely, and have no history of felony convictions or mental illness. (In short, the same restrictions that apply to purchasing a handgun in a licensed store also apply to getting a Concealed Weapon permit.)
Understanding the “Gun Show Loophole”
Even though the state places restrictions on retail locations or gun stores, it is still possible for private individuals to sell firearms to other private individuals. If you attend a gun show or purchase a firearm through a friend or acquaintance, you will not have to undergo a background check. (Seven local governments, like Miami-Dade County, do require background checks at gun shows and private gun purchases, but reports show that this is rarely enforced.)
This can make things tricky if you are caught with a weapon and have a criminal history or situation that would not allow you to buy a gun in a licensed store.
Remember that illegally carrying a firearm can result in a misdemeanor or third degree felony charge. You can carry a firearm in your car if it is “securely encased or is otherwise not readily accessible for immediate use.” (Florida Statute 790.251(5)), and a concealed handgun on your person (provided you have a permit). You are also allowed to carry any kind of weapon while you are hunting or fishing.
But there are many places where firearms are not allowed under any circumstances. Continue to update yourself on changes to gun restrictions and legislation to keep yourself out of trouble.
This is especially important right now, because the tragedy at Pulse nightclub will no doubt give police officers an extra reason to keep an eye out for firearms, and courts an extra reason to place harsh penalties on people or retailers who break the laws regarding firearms and other weapons. If you have recently been charged with a crime related to weapons, it is important to speak with a knowledgeable Florida weapons crimes lawyer immediately. Contact us for a free case review today.
About the Author:
Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he’s done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.