If your governor declares a state of emergency or orders a mandatory evacuation, do you know what that means regarding your rights to carry or transport your firearms?
We turned to our U. S. Law Shield of Florida Independent Program Attorney David Katz for his advice to those caught in the impending wake of Hurricane Matthew.
Here is what he said:
Last year, Governor Scott signed into law an “Emergency Concealed Carry” bill. The new law is found in Florida Statutes 790.01 (3)(a) and in part states that the law that makes it illegal to carry a concealed weapon without a license does not apply to:
(a) A person who carries a concealed weapon, or a person who may lawfully possess a firearm and who carries a concealed firearm, on or about his or her person while in the act of evacuating during a mandatory evacuation order issued during a state of emergency declared by the Governor pursuant to chapter 252 or declared by a local authority pursuant to chapter 870. As used in this subsection, the term “in the act of evacuating” means the immediate and urgent movement of a person away from the evacuation zone within 48 hours after a mandatory evacuation is ordered. The 48 hours may be extended by an order issued by the Governor.
It is important to note that the law does not go into effect unless two things have happened:
1) The Governor or local authorities issue or declare a State of Emergency
2) There is a MANDATORY evacuation order issued.
Bottom Line: If both of the above conditions have been met, then a person who is evacuating within 48 hours of the order of evacuation may carry a weapon concealed during evacuation. The 48 hours may be extended by order of the Governor. This applies to people with or without a CWFL who have a lawful right to possess a firearm.
ALABAMA and GEORGIA
Many of our Florida members may be considering evacuating to a surrounding state. Both Georgia and Alabama recognize Florida’s CWFL, however, the emergency evacuation law is not recognized, and only CWFL holders may lawfully carry concealed in these states and are subject to their laws and restrictions. Both Georgia and Alabama allow those without permits to carry weapons in their vehicles as long as they are not a person prohibited from carrying by law. (Felony, under 21 etc.) Georgia allows the carrying of a loaded handgun in a vehicle occupied by anyone who would qualify for a permit. Alabama only allows non-licensed individuals to carry an unloaded handgun, cased and secured in the trunk or rear storage area. So if you are headed to Alabama, make sure to properly secure your unloaded firearm before you cross the state line.
If you live in North Carolina and you are evacuating from the hurricane and you wish to take a firearm with you, please remember the following rules regarding the transportation of firearms. North Carolina is an open-carry state. You may transport a firearm that is in plain view without legal repercussions, e.g., a long gun in a gun rack or a pistol on the dash of a vehicle. If you wish to transport a concealed firearm and you do not have a concealed carry permit, the firearm cannot be concealed on or about your person. The phrase “about your person means” that you cannot have ready access to the firearm, e.g., a firearm under the seat of your vehicle.
The safest way to transport a concealed firearm is to put it in a car trunk, a truck toolbox, or in a closed, and if possible, locked bag or suitcase as far away from you in the vehicle as possible. Those with concealed-carry permits from North Carolina or recognized states must tell the police they are carrying and produce their license or permit when initially approached by the police. Open carry by non-permittees or licensees is allowed in most public areas.
If your travels take you to North Carolina, please note that Pursuant to the North Carolina Emergency Management Act [N.C.G.S. 166A-19.31(b)(4)], local governments may impose restrictions on dangerous weapons such as explosives, incendiary devices, and radioactive materials and devices when a state of emergency is declared, but may not impose restrictions on lawfully possessed firearms or ammunition.
Furthermore, under provisions of the Act, specifically:
§ 166A-19.31(b)(4). Power of municipalities and counties to enact ordinances to deal with states of emergency.
(b) Type of Prohibitions and Restrictions Authorized. – The ordinances authorized by this section may permit prohibitions and restrictions:
(4) Upon the possession, transportation, sale, purchase, storage, and use of gasoline, and dangerous weapons and substances, except that this subdivision does not authorize prohibitions or restrictions on lawfully possessed firearms or ammunition.
Bottom Line: If you are traveling into North Carolina, there are no special exemptions that apply for the transporting or possession of firearms during a declared state of emergency. North Carolina recognizes a Florida carry license, but you are subject to the usual laws of North Carolina.
In South Carolina, a license holder, or one with a recognized license from another state, may carry a handgun on his person, or concealed in a vehicle. If you are stopped by the police in South Carolina, you must identify yourself as a concealed-weapons holder and produce your license or permit to carry concealed. People who do not have valid carry permits or licenses may carry a loaded handgun in a vehicle, but it must be in an enclosed container. A glove box or center console, or in the trunk, is sufficient.
Federal Law on Transporting Firearms
A provision of the federal law known as the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act, or FOPA, protects those who are transporting firearms for lawful purposes from local restrictions which would otherwise prohibit passage.
Under FOPA, notwithstanding any state or local law, a person is entitled to transport a firearm from any place where he or she may lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he or she may lawfully possess and carry it, if the firearm is unloaded and locked out of reach. In vehicles without a trunk, the unloaded firearm must be in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console. Ammunition that is either locked out of reach in the trunk or in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console is also covered.
Travelers should be aware that some state and local governments treat this federal provision as an “affirmative defense” that may only be raised after an arrest. All travelers in areas with restrictive laws would be well advised to have copies of any applicable firearm licenses or permits, as well as copies or printouts from the relevant jurisdictions’ official publications or websites documenting pertinent provisions of law (including FOPA itself) or reciprocity information. In the event of an unexpected or extended delay, travelers should make every effort not to handle any luggage containing firearms unnecessarily and to secure it in a location where they do not have ready access to it.
Good luck, stay safe, and know that U.S. Law Shield will be here if you run into any firearm-related trouble.