As a Floridian, a gun owner, and a law enforcement officer, let me explain what lead up to and caused the recent Miami Beach incident in which open carriers were detained. Florida has been called the Gunshine State due to a popular belief that the state’s firearms laws are very liberal. The truth, however, is very different.
Our laws are middle of the road in terms of Second Amendment freedoms and sliding downhill. Florida has no campus carry, no general open carry, and no non-permitted carry of any type except for vehicles and private property.
We have a law that restricts shooting on private property (property must be an at least an acre with one acre between residences/buildings). We have no background check exemption for CCW permit holders and now, after Parkland, no one under 21 can purchase a firearm.
Counties are allowed to heavily restrict private sales and they are allowed to lengthen waiting periods. All firearm and ammunition sales are banned during states of emergencies (we have them frequently during hurricane season). Plus we have a vague restraining order law that can strip you of your rights with little recourse in court.
On top of that, the limited permitted open carry rights we do have is never brought up as a legal means of exercising of our Second Amendment Rights is never mentioned by anyone at the state level. We have a Republican Party that is anti-gun and a Democrat Party that is extremely anti-gun.
Culture is the issue. Florida’s firearms culture is one of asking for permission, not enabling freedom. Only 36% of Floridians are born in Florida. The other 64% of our residents are folks from other states or from other countries.
These people bring with them their own voting patterns and life experiences. South Florida is known as the sixth borough of New York City and we all know how friendly New York City is towards civil rights like the Second Amendment.
Culture doesn’t just affect the common citizenry, either. It also affects law enforcement. In South Florida, it’s very much a ‘King’s Men’ attitude, and law enforcement officers there are all about that mentality. Many are actually cops from up north (some who are drawing retirement from there while working down here) who brought the same mindset with them. And the police culture from the Northeast is that cops are taught that citizens with guns are always a problem.
Some have stated that the MBPD patrol officers who responded were feigning confusion over the interpretation of the law. They probably honestly didn’t know the law since they were never instructed in it and relied on their training. The issue at hand with MBPD and many other agencies is the culture there and training (or lack thereof) when it comes to a number of laws concerning civil rights.
Police are told by their trainers and command staff that open carry is verboten in Florida. That’s the constant message parroted across the state. Police are also told if they see someone with a gun, it’s wrong and that person must be doing something illegal.
This all comes from the culture of politics that is embedded within agencies from command staff and the political leadership of the cities that they serve. That determines how orders and training that come down from the top are given, explained, and interpreted.
We saw that with Broward County and the utter fustercluck that was the cause of and response to the Parkland shooting.
Miami Beach is a leftist Democrat-run city. To give you an idea of how left-leaning Miami Beach is, the current Florida Democrat candidate front runner for Governor is former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and he’s a major bankroller in the post-Parkland gun control movement in the state.
Miami Beach is a city no different than other Democrat-run cities in the US like Berkeley, Chicago or Washington, DC. The police are a representation of the local political culture and the people who live there. The city is run by statists who believe they know what is best for you and me.
The Miami Beach Police revealed their attitude and knowledge of the law when they told a caller who stated that he was cleared to open carry under Florida State Statute 790.25 (3)(h) that he was wrong. They made all the classic cop moves. They repeatedly pushed the call off to someone else rather than looking at the statute. They told him call Florida Fish & Wildlife or Florida Department of Law Enforcement and get it in writing, even though the statute is clear and easy to find.
Furthermore, Miami Beach Police Chief Daniel J. Oates made a statement following the incident that shows exactly why this happened the way it did.
“Given the current climate, if six people show up to a pier in South Beach carrying guns, our citizens expect us to respond promptly and address any potential danger. We did so, and I am confident our officers acted appropriately.” – Chief Oates
What climate is that? Does he mean summer when lots of law-abiding Floridians are fishing? Or does the good chief mean the climate within his agency and city that considers gun control good and that anyone exercising their Second Amendment rights as either unreasonably uppity or up to no good? His former boss is now running for Governor and is bankrolling the effort to enact ever more gun control in Florida. Is that the climate he’s referring to?
New Smyrna Beach resident and Florida Carry executive director Sean Caranna forwarded to the Miami Herald a letter from Lighthouse Point’s Christopher Philpot to Chief Oates that says “On June 24, 2018 a few friends and I will be open carrying holstered handguns while fishing off of South Pointe Pier in Miami Beach.”
The letter, dated June 7, quotes Florida Statute 790.25(3)(h) directly, which allows a person hunting, camping or fishing to openly carry a gun, and states that he’s writing toChief Oates because “I’m sure there will be citizens that do not know the law. They may contact law enforcement when they see someone open carrying a holstered handgun.”
But Chief Oates, through Miami Beach police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez, claimed that he never received any such letter by e-mail or regular mail.
June 7, 2018
My name is Christopher Philpot and I am an avid Florida Fisherman. The reason I am writing your office is because I wanted to notify you that on June 24, 2018 a few friends and I will be open carrying holstered handguns while fishing off of South Pointe Pier in Miami Beach. As you probably already know the open carrying of any firearm is legal in The State of Florida, pursuant a person engaged in fishing, camping, or lawful hunting or going to or returning from a fishing, camping, or lawful hunting expedition.
It is outlined by our State Legislators in Florida Statute: 790.25, The provisions of ss. 790.053 (Open Carrying of Weapons) 790.06 (License to carry concealed weapon or firearm) do not apply in the following instances, and, despite such sections, it is lawful for the following persons to own, possess, and lawfully use firearms and other weapons, ammunition, and supplies for lawful purposes (h) A person engaged in fishing, camping, or lawful hunting or going to or returning from a fishing, camping, or lawful hunting expedition.
The reason I wanted to reach out to your office is because I’m sure there will be citizens that do not know the law.They may contact Law Enforcement when they see someone open carrying a holstered handgun. I just want to be sure that The City of Miami Beach & Law Enforcement are fully aware that what we are doing is completely legal. My friends and I are law abiding citizens. We legally own our firearms and we have never committed any felonies or violent crimes. We are just a few people that love to fish and celebrate our Freedom & Second Amendment rights!
CC- Eric Friday, Richard Nascak, Scott Whigham, Dennis Fields
So the agency was contacted both by phone and mail and yet this still happened.
For MBPD to show up in the manner they did, drawing their guns on law-abiding Floridians who were acting within the law was wrong. Simple possession of a holstered firearm does not constitute a threat. But the MBPD’s response goes back to their mindset and culture in dealing with civilian firearms ownership and use.
This is by no means just an issue with the Miami Beach Police. A few years back, when some in the Florida Legislature were considering legalizing open carry, a number of chiefs and sheriffs made their opinions known. The sheriff of Pinellas County, Bob Gualtieri, was the most vocal.
“At a minimum, they’re going to be thrown down on the ground with a gun pointed at them or worse.” – SheriffGualtieri
The City of Tampa had a similar situtation in 2015 with another fisherman. Florida resident George Freeman was legally open carrying while fishing and Tampa Police repsonded in a similar manner. They detained him for 70 minutes. Once they realized they were in the wrong, they trespassed on Mr. Freeman’s property as a way to get even with him. The matter is currently in the courts and Florida Carry is fighting it.
And for a real glimpse at how Florida law enforcement views the public being armed, I give you the Dale Lee Norman incident from 2012. A Floridian who was legally carrying under the authority of a CCW permit. Mr. Norman had a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ and his gun was accidentally exposed. The Fort Pierce Police Department decided to take action. I’ll let the video show you what FPPD really thinks about citizen exercising their right to keep and bear arms.
This was in 2012, a year after State Senator Bogdanoff (R-Fort Lauderdale) gutted SB 234 (open carry) and made it a bill about legal protection for accidental exposure of a firearm. Mr. Norman was covered under that bill and yet the police did what you see in the video.
I don’t know every statute on the books, but I make a constant effort to stay as current as possible. I also keep a cheat sheet of common statutes and a statute book to make sure that I enforce them properly. I have even had suspects inform me of statutes that I looked it up and found that John Q. Public was right, then thanked them.
I do, however, know chapter 790 because it’s so important. We have over 1.5 million active CCW permits in the state and a lot more gun owners in addition to that. Many who simply choose to carry in their vehicles, homes, or businesses since it’s not required to have a CCW permit to do so.
When I worked for a certain prior agency, the training staff told us that we have the authority to arrest anyone who has a Florida CCW permit and an out of state ID. They said the law is that you must have a Florida driver’s license or state ID and it must be carried in conjunction with the Florida CCW permit. I had to correct the trainer on that and show them that we issue non-resident CCW permits to folks who reside out of state.
I had a coworker in another former agency I worked for who wanted to charge a driver with illegal conceal carry. As the arrest affidavit was being written, I reviewed it and corrected the officer.
It was a traffic stop on a motorcyclist. The driver had a GLOCK in a book bag and it was strapped to the rear of the seat. I explained to that officer that a zipped book bag is legally defined as ‘securely encased’ under chapter 790 and that the State Attorney’s office will throw the charge out. The officer didn’t believe me and rather than looking up chapter 790, he called the legal section who confirmed what I’d told him.
Again…training and culture. The mindset was that guns in the hands of the people is wrong. That is what caused the situation we saw in Miami Beach.
Not all police are bad, mind you. Some truly fight hard and are on our side. But you, the People of the Gun, need to understand why Miami Beach happened.
Just like the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the gay rights movement of the 1990s and 2000s, gun owners need to continually fight for their rights. Sometimes the end result will be what we saw in Miami Beach.
The fight, however, is the same: opposing oppressive authoritarians restricting the civil liberties and rights of honest, law-abiding Americans. We can’t hide in the shadows. We need to be open, loud, and stand strong in the face of this kind of intimidation.