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Florida Supreme Court Upholds Ban On Openly Carrying Guns

The Florida Supreme Court has upheld a state law banning the open carrying of firearms.

The decision emerged from a case brought by Dale Lee Norman, who was arrested for carrying a .38 caliber gun in public along a highway, Slate reported.

The court ruling maintains the right of people in Florida to carry a handgun, but it must be concealed.

The court examined whether the law preventing the open carrying of handguns "burdens conduct protected by the Second Amendment based on a historical understanding of [its] scope," or whether the law came under an "historically unprotected … category of prohibitions."

The court found that the law did not come under an historically unprotected category, but ruled that it concerned the "central component" of the Second Amendment right to self-defense. It therefore asked whether the law's provisions were "so close to the 'core' of this right as to prevent people from defending themselves."

Since the Florida law still permits the carrying of a handgun at home or in public so long as it is concealed, the court decided that it still allowed individuals to defend themselves.

"[We] agree with the 4th District and are satisfied that the state's prohibition on openly carrying firearms in public with specified exceptions -- such as authorizing the open carrying of guns to and from and during lawful recreational activities -- while still permitting those guns to be carried, albeit in a concealed manner, reasonably fits the state's important government interests of public safety and reducing gun-related violence," the court's majority opinion stated, according to WUSF.

However, some observers, while welcoming the maintenance of the ban, found the court's ruling unsatisfactory.

"[t]he notion of a strong tradition of a right to carry outside of the home rests on a set of historical myths and a highly selective reading of the evidence. The only persuasive evidence for a strong tradition of permissive open carry is limited to the slave South," an legal article cited by Slate noted.

Two judges dissented in the ruling, noting that in their opinion, the prohibition "collides with the Second Amendment right as understood" in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned a Washington D.C. gun law. The argument that the ban was justified on public safety grounds was "feeble," the minority opinion added, according to WUSF.

"Of course, many people are made uncomfortable by the fact that others are permitted to keep and bear arms at all," the dissenting opinion added. "But contemporary sensibilities cannot be the test. Such sensibilities are no more a basis for defeating the historic right to open carrying than for defeating the understanding that the Second Amendment recognizes the right of individuals to keep and bear arms."

Sources: Slate, WUSF / Photo credit: Custom Clicks/Wikimedia Commons

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