Open carry loophole concerns police

New political push to make FL an open carry state

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A political push to allow Floridians to openly carry their weapons is giving law enforcement some headaches. Channel 4 looked into the legal loophole that allows gun owners to carry their weapons openly if they are traveling to go fishing or hunting.

Some gun owners are using the wording of the law, from Wildlife Law enforcement to openly carry their weapons all over town.

The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office told Channel 4 that the open carry concept where gun owners simply say they are going fishing or hunting in order to carry their weapon openly, is becoming a trend.

"We have some individuals who have begun to strap firearms and walk in and out of stores, walk around town with firearms on concerning the average citizen who don't know this law exists," said St. Johns County Sheriff's Cmdr. Chuck Mulligan.

It's illegal in most cases to openly carry a weapon, but because of the loophole that allows fisherman and hunters to openly carry, Mulligan said that people are saying they are on their way to hunt or fish at all times.

"If you see someone doing that you should understand that law enforcement is limited in what we're gonna' do until legislation is changed or case law that comes to give us guidance on this issue," said Mulligan.

Local gun rights attorney, Cord Byrd, said there is a political push in Florida to change the state's gun rights laws to open carry and that some people are pushing their efforts to the limits.

"I've had people that ask me about this provision in law. I've had someone tell me that yeah, I carry fishing pole with me all the time, so that if I ever get pulled over and I'm open carrying I can say this is what I'm doing," said Byrd.

Byrd did remind gun owners that if they are openly carrying and cannot prove that they are really hunting or fishing, they are running a risk.

"If you're legitimately going or coming from those activities. But there's always people looking to push envelope of law, but you run risk and you may need to hire a lawyer at some point because (it's a) second-degree misdemeanor to open carry," said Byrd.

Six states have open carry laws and to clarify the open carry loophole around hunting and fishing only applies to legal gun owners. If you're not licensed to carry a gun or a convicted felon you could never use this exception. 

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