Open carry gun rights supporters met Saturday on public fishing piers in Tampa and Daytona Beach, FL for a morning of fishing and to exercise their right to bear arms. The Florida Open Carry movement started holding open carry & fishing events immediately after the United States Supreme Court clarified that the Second Amendment protects a fundamental right for the individual to keep and bear arms for self defense. The high court also held that the Second Amendment is incorporated to the states. This requires that state and local governments protect your right to own and carry firearms without undue restrictions. Much like the right to free speech, the right to bear arms has now been recognized as a civil right.
Individuals from all walks of life have come together to lobby for a repeal to the Florida ban on openly carrying an unconcealed firearm. Florida is one of only seven states that widely restrict open carry. Members of the open carry movement generally feel that Florida’s concealed carry license is overly restrictive in that it licenses and taxes a fundamental right. The current licensing scheme also denies the right to bear arms to adults under the age of 21 and requires that the firearm carried be concealed at all times. There are exceptions to the licensing requirements and open carry ban for hunting, fishing, camping, and target shooting. This makes fishing the most accessible activity available to allow open carry advocates a chance to come together and bring their rights out of the closet. It also provides an opportunity to educate the public on their rights and inform law enforcement on the current law.
In Tampa, the police department sent an officer at the invitation of organizers to handle any complaints phoned in to 911 by citizens unfamiliar with the law. As with other Florida Open Carry events since July, there were no calls to the police. There were also no 911 calls in Daytona area but a city animal control worker did call in to report people on the pier were armed. In this case, the Port Orange police department did exactly the right thing; officers informed the city employee that open carry is legal when fishing.
Florida Open Carry usually holds Open Carry & Fishing events at public fishing venues across the state on the first Saturday of each month. Participants organize their activities online at sites like Florida’s http://www.open-carry.org, the national http://www.opencarry.org, and multiple Florida gun owner forums. There is also a growing Florida Open Carry Facebook Group of approximately 1400 members.