Arrest of Fort Pierce man sparks concealed weapon debate

By Arek Sarkissian

TALLAHASSEE — The first shots were fired in another battle over whether concealed weapon permit holders may openly carry a gun in public with the filing of a brief Wednesday at the Florida Supreme Court.

The brief challenges the 2012 conviction of Fort Pierce resident Dale Norman, who had just received his concealed weapon permit when he was arrested for walking on a sidewalk with his handgun on his hip. Norman was convicted of openly carrying a firearm in a jury trial that June, and the ruling was upheld by the Florida 4th Circuit Court of Appeal.

Florida open carry attorney Eric Friday argued in the brief that Norman was within his rights afforded by the Second Amendment when he left his home and sought protection. The brief also cites state and federal case law that proves the U.S. Constitution permits people to openly carry weapons.

Norman’s case was accepted by the high court in October as the Legislature considered a bill that would allow concealed weapon permit holders to openly carry a handgun. House Bill 167 by Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Fort Walton Beach, narrowly passed the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee Nov. 18 with a vote of 7-6. Senate Bill 300 by Sen. Don Gaetz, a Republican from Niceville, passed the Criminal Justice Committee by an equally narrow, 3-2, vote in October and now awaits a hearing in judiciary.

As for the Supreme Court case, Friday argued in the brief that the “Open Carry Ban severely restricts the right to bear arms.”

The brief goes on to cite similar state cases from Georgia and Tennessee, where open carry laws were found unconstitutional. It goes on to explain that laws governing concealed weapon permits are also unconstitutional, equating the right to carrying a gun as the same right that protects the publication of pornography.

“Mr. Norman’s arrest and prosecution were unconstitutional from beginning to end,” Friday wrote in the brief. “The gunpoint detention of Mr. Norman, a lawfully armed person, clearly shows that the current interpretation of firearms law is suspect and dangerous.”

Friday said he expected 19th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Bruce Colton to spend a month crafting a response.

Contact reporter or 850-559-7620.

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