The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to take up a challenge to a Florida law that bars people from openly carrying firearms in public, ending a case that started nearly six years ago when a man was arrested in St. Lucie County.
The U.S. Supreme Court, as is common, did not explain its reasons for declining to hear the case. But the move effectively let stand a Florida Supreme Court ruling in March that said the open-carry ban did not violate the constitutional right to bear arms.
The plaintiff in the case, Dale Norman, was arrested in February 2012 as he openly carried a gun in a holster. Norman, who had a concealed-weapons license, was found guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor, with a judge imposing a $300 fine and court costs, according to court documents.
Backed by the Second Amendment group Florida Carry, Norman challenged the constitutionality of the state's longstanding ban on openly carrying weapons. But the state's 4th District Court of Appeal and the Florida Supreme Court ruled against Norman, leading him to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a petition filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, Norman's attorneys pointed to major rulings in Second Amendment cases from Chicago and Washington, D.C. and argued that the right to openly bear arms exists outside homes.
“The Second Amendment provides in part that `the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.' This guarantees not only the right to `keep' arms, such as in one's house, but also to `bear arms,' which simply means to carry arms without reference to a specific place. When the Framers intended that a provision of the Bill of Rights related to a house, they said so,” said the petition, filed in July and posted on the Florida Carry website.
But attorneys for the state wrote in a brief that the ban does not violate Second Amendment rights, as people can carry concealed weapons if they have licenses.
“This (U.S. Supreme) Court has never held that the Second Amendment protects a right to openly carry firearms in public, and the reasoning set forth in pertinent caselaw supports the proposition that states fully accommodate the right to bear arms when they make available to responsible, law-abiding citizens some meaningful form of public carry,” the state's brief said. “That is precisely what Florida has done here. Thus, Florida's law is valid under any arguably applicable analytical framework.”
State lawmakers have proposed measures that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to openly carry firearms, but the proposals have not passed. Senate Judiciary Chairman Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican and prominent gun-rights supporter, said this month he did not plan to file such a measure for the 2018 legislative session, which starts in January.