In order to determine whether or not a group of CWFL holders can join together to act as voluntary, uncompensated organized security for a religious organization, we first need to determine if a CWFL holder can even carry a weapon at the institution. There is no law in Florida prohibiting the carry of a firearm at a church or other religious institution. Generally, a CWFL holder can carry concealed at a place of worship in this state. However, there are some common exceptions in many religious institutions.
Determining Factor: School on Property
Whether or not one may carry a firearm with a CWFL to church will depend on whether or not the church has a school component or daycare component. Florida Statute 790.115 defines schools to include preschools. A childcare facility includes any childcare center or childcare arrangement which provides childcare for more than five children unrelated to the operator, and which receives a payment, fee, or grant for any of the children receiving care, wherever operated, whether or not operated for profit. Therefore, if your church has a school, daycare, or childcare facility with more than five children and receives payment or a grant for the children attending, you are not going to be able to carry a firearm to church services. This applies even if the school is not in the same building as the services you are attending, and still applies even if the school is closed on the day you are attending services.
Congregants as an Organized Security Force
Assuming that the congregants can carry on the property of their church, then we can discuss whether or not a church can allow congregants to act as an organized security force. This is a complicated issue with much disagreement over it. Due to the large number of shootings which have occurred at churches and other religious institutions, many churches have established security forces made up of volunteers from their congregation. Although, there is no prohibition from carrying at church, having CWFL holders organize and act as security for the church may not be the best course of action. In fact, it may be illegal and can lead to both civil and criminal actions.
The issue here is not whether an individual may concealed carry at church for his or her own protection. The issue is whether or not a group of CWFL holders may organize themselves, or be organized by the institution, to act as a private security company to provide security services to a church without being properly licensed, even if uncompensated. When a statute is not clear in its meaning, the courts look to the intent of the legislature to decide what was intended. When it comes to licensing security guards, the legislator wrote:
The legislature recognizes that the private security, investigative, and recovery industries are rapidly expanding fields that require regulation to ensure that the interests of the public will be adequately served and protected. The legislature recognizes that untrained, unlicensed persons or businesses, or persons who are not of good moral character engaged in the private security, investigative, and recovery industries are a threat to the welfare of the public if placed in positions of trust. Regulation of licensed and unlicensed persons and businesses engaged in these fields is therefore deemed necessary.”
Here, the legislature clearly makes known its intent to regulate anyone providing security services, whether or not they have a security license. Further, this statement of legislative intent says nothing about regulating only those who receive pay for the provisions of security services.
Based on this statement of legislative intent written at the beginning of the statute, a judge might determine that the unlicensed provision of security services, even by volunteers, is forbidden. A judge could also look at the entire statute and say that if the legislature had intended to regulate unpaid voluntary security, they would have explicitly said so in the law. Currently, there are no reported cases dealing with this, so caution is recommended.
Further, if CWFL holders are organized and operating with church knowledge and permission, or at the church’s request and organization, the church is opening itself up to potential civil liability if something goes wrong and an innocent person is shot by one of these security force members, or if a member of the security force uses excessive force. If you have any other questions related to your firearms, give U.S. LawShield a call today and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.