You are in a supermarket shopping. You reach up to the highest shelf and your concealed carry weapon is exposed. To your dismay, you see someone run from the aisle screaming, “He has a gun.” What do you do?
Violations and Legalities
Florida law allows those with a concealed weapons and firearms license (or CWFL) to carry a loaded firearm concealed on their person. It is not a violation of any law for that firearm to be accidentally displayed. In fact, Florida statute §790.053 specifically states that it is not a violation for a person licensed to carry a concealed weapon, who is lawfully carrying a concealed firearm in a concealed manner, to briefly and openly display the firearm to the ordinary sight of another person, unless the firearm is intentionally displayed in an angry or threatening manner, not in necessary self-defense.
However, we all know that the statute will not keep an uninformed anti-gunner from creating a scene if they see your firearm. In fact, the police may be called, and may confront you with their guns drawn. So, what do you do if you find yourself in this type of situation? Someone has seen your concealed weapon and panicked.
How to react
First, do not panic yourself. Remain calm. You have done nothing wrong. Second, under no circumstances should you reach for or draw your firearm. It is likely best if you calmly walk to the customer service counter and explain to them that you are a licensed concealed carrier, that your firearm was accidentally displayed as you reached for a product on the shelf, and that you never removed it from the holster.
If they indicate that the police have already been called, it is likely best if you wait at the customer service counter until they arrive. Be ready to show the police your ID and your CWFL. Hopefully, the police who respond to the scene will know the law and will realize that you have done nothing illegal. Likely, they will scold you to be more careful and leave. You should also be prepared in case the management of the store asks you to leave. Remember, they do not have to allow you to stay on their property with a firearm.
Potential Felony Charge
If you are asked to leave, do so immediately. If you remain, you could be charged with armed trespass, which is a felony. If you are ever confronted with such a situation, always remember to remain calm. Do not answer fear with anger. This will only escalate the situation. Try to use the opportunity to educate the uninformed. Be humble and try to calm the situation. Too many times mistakes escalate into unnecessary confrontation, and what began as a simple misunderstanding gets out of control quickly.
As always, be prepared to call the U.S. LawShield Emergency Hotline to assist with any interaction with law enforcement. If you have any other questions related to firearms law in Florida, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.