The new Florida law permitting eligible people to carry a concealed firearm without first obtaining a license might cause people to wonder about where they may or may not legally carry a concealed firearm. To provide a thorough understanding of this complex issue, it is important to examine Florida state statutes, federal laws, and specific policies that theme parks may have in place.
Florida State Law: Private Property Rights and Concealed Carry Laws
Florida law provides for the protection of a person’s Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms under any circumstances. Since July 1, 2023, Florida has permitted those who meet eligibility criteria to carry a concealed firearm even without a license.
Florida even enacted a law that protected people’s right to keep a properly stored concealed firearm in their private vehicle when parked on a public or private employer’s property. (F.S. §790.251). However, the statute was ruled unconstitutional by U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Florida Retail Federation, Inc. v. Attorney General, 576 F. Supp. 2d 1281 (N.D. Fla. 2008).
But even if the statute were upheld, the law included exceptions listing properties at which a firearm could not legally be kept in a parked vehicle. These places included properties like nuclear power plants, schools, and “property owned or leased by an employer who has obtained a permit required under 18 U.S.C. s. 842 to engage in the business of importing, manufacturing, or dealing in explosive materials on such property.”
Many theme parks, including Disney properties, do hold federal licenses obtained under 18 U.S.C. §842 because these theme parks frequently use explosives and pyrotechnics in their shows and exhibitions.
Federal Law: No Explicit Restrictions
At the federal level, there are no laws that specifically prohibit the carrying of firearms into theme parks. Federal laws do restrict firearms in federal facilities, schools, and government buildings, but theme parks are not universally included in these categories. However, federal law does not preclude states or private entities, including theme parks, from implementing stricter regulations.
Theme Park Policies: The Pivotal Factor
Theme parks in Florida, such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, are private entities and are free to exercise their property rights to restrict firearms on their premises.
These policies are usually clearly posted in plain sight and visitors are informed of the rules at the entrance or through the terms and conditions when purchasing a ticket. Failing to abide by these rules can lead to removal from the park and potentially even result in a trespassing charge, which carries its own legal consequences.
“Gun-Free Zone” Signs
Florida law does not mandate that “gun-free zone” signs have specific legal weight, unlike some other states. However, these signs often serve as an initial notice to visitors about the theme park’s policy. Failure to comply could therefore make one subject to removal or prosecution for trespassing, as mentioned earlier.
Are There Any Exceptions?
Certain exceptions exist for law enforcement officers or private security personnel contracted to work at the theme park. Additionally, concealed carry might technically be allowed in some parking lots under certain circumstances, as per Florida law, though this can also be subject to the specific policies of the park.
Unless you are certain about a particular theme park’s concealed-carry policy, carrying or transporting a concealed firearm in your vehicle on the park’s premises, including the parking lot, could lead to serious consequences.
Ignoring theme park policies can result in removal from the premises at best and legal ramifications at worst. Trespassing charges in Florida can range from a second-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony, depending on the circumstances.
If a person is convicted of carrying a firearm during the course of a criminal trespass, the penalty includes a prison term of up to 5 years and a $5,000 fine.
Any criminal conviction in Florida poses a severe threat to a person’s personal and professional life. Aside from the actual court-imposed punishment, the stigma of a criminal conviction can interfere with your employment and advancement in your desired field, threaten your ability to rent housing, or obtain credit for financing a car or a mortgage.
Consult an Experienced Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you possess a concealed carry permit and have questions about specific circumstances, contact our veteran criminal defense lawyers at Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law in Tampa. You should always speak to an attorney with expertise in your particular area of interest before acting on information you may have read online or heard in conversations with non-lawyers. Even some lawyers are unfamiliar with the nuances of the law as it relates to firearms in Florida.
Ignorance of the law or misunderstanding of private policies will not serve as a defense in a court of law.
While federal law and Florida state law don’t explicitly prohibit concealed carry in theme parks, the policies set forth by these private entities often do. Always familiarize yourself with the policies of the specific park you intend to visit and abide by those rules to avoid legal complications.
As with all criminal law questions that might apply to individual circumstances, it is imperative to consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer for advice tailored to your case facts.
Call 813-280-1244 today.