OPEN CARRY WHILE ENGAGED IN OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES
Generally, Florida is not an open carry state. That means you can’t openly carry a firearm in public in plain sight as you go about your business. However, there are some exceptions to the “no open carry” rule. For example, you can open carry legally while engaged in, or going to and from, lawful target shooting, hunting, fishing and camping expeditions.
The purpose of this exception is to allow people to defend themselves while engaged in remote outdoor activities. Obviously, you want to have your weapon handy if you’re deep in the woods, at the mercy of wild animals and perhaps unsavory people with sinister motives who may try to take advantage of your secluded status.
But how far can someone stretch the “going to and from” provision? Does that mean you can carry a holstered gun on your hip from your house to your car, to the gas station for a fill-up, into Wal-mart to buy supplies, and in the car on the way to your favorite hunt club? Absolutely not!! If you do that, you will spend the rest of the day strapped in handcuffs instead of strapping a deer.
Keep in mind that the other laws and restrictions apply, such as transporting a firearm in the vehicle and open carry in public. This exception does not give you a free pass to holster up and saunter around whenever and wherever you like, just because you say you’re going camping.
Florida case law does not specify the meaning of the “going to and from” provision. But I caution gun owners to take it literally and only open carry while going directly to the location. That means that you are in the actual act of engaging in your activity. For example, let’s say you’re driving to your favorite fishing hole with your legal firearm. You may holster up once you park and open carry while you walk to your spot, during the duration of the fishing activity, and going back to your vehicle.
Florida law says that the law is to be interpreted in favor of law-abiding gun owners. Even so, you don’t need to push the limits. Florida is also an affirmative defense state. That means you can be lawfully arrested for a gun crime, and it’s your burden to prove that you were acting legally. So you’ll be arrested, go to jail, post a high bond, spend lots of money on an attorney, and maybe even go to trial and wait through a lengthy appeal process before you can prove that you were right all along.
Before you decide to push the boundaries, ask yourself: “Is it worth it?” Be smart, be safe, and stay free.