Florida’s new “Church Carry” Bill allows those with a Concealed Weapon and Firearm License to protect themselves, their families and fellow parishioners from deadly attack while at church or other religious services. Church Carry and the carrying of firearms onto the property of religious institutions is now legal in Florida. Today, June 30, 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 259 into law. The changes to Florida law take place immediately. House Bill 259 authorizes those with a Concealed Weapon and Firearm License (CWFL) to carry a firearm with them on the property of churches, temples, and other religious institutions, regardless of whether or not there is a school which operates on the same property and in spite of any other state laws which might prohibit the carry of firearms on the property.
However, the Church Carry law goes much much further. The law adds a new subsection to Florida Statute 790.06 which specifically says that you may carry a firearm for the purposes of safety, security, personal protection, or any other lawful purpose on property owned, rented, leased, borrowed, or lawfully used by a church, synagogue, or other religious institution.
According to the wording of the statute, it applies to all property owned, rented, leased, borrowed or lawfully used by a religious institution, not just to the property where services are held or during the time services are being held. This seems to allow for the carrying of firearms on religious school property or any other property owned by a religious organization even while school is in session and even if services are not. This is a major change from previous Florida law which banned the possession of firearms on the property of a school, including religious schools, whether or not the person possessing the firearm had a CWFL.
Further, the law reserves property rights to the religious institution to exercise control over the property, therefore a religious institution can prohibit the carrying of firearms by providing actual notice to those on the property that they may not carry firearms. As signed, the law does not make signage an effective method of communicating a prohibition against the possession of firearms on the property. Therefore, if you have a CWFL you may carry a firearm onto the property of any religious institution UNLESS you have been specifically told that you may not do so by someone with authority over the institutions property. As always, we will point out that the effect of a “No Guns” sign is not clear under Florida law and there is disagreement in the legal community as to whether such a sign has any legal effect. We always advise that if you do not want to be the test case and you see a sign indicating that you cannot have a firearm on the property you either follow the sign and enter without your firearm, go to another establishment, or enter with your firearm knowing that you may be the test case regarding the legal effect of signage.
Further, the Church Carry law does not address whether firearms can only be carried on a property that is leased or used by a Church or other religious institution at times that the property is in use for other purposes or when it is leased by another group or organization. For instance, if a church rents space on Sunday for services, according to the bill, the carry of firearms is allowed on that property, even if it is used during the rest of the week as a school. The bill does not specifically limit its allowance of carrying concealed weapons by CWFL holders to times that the property is being used or leased by the church.
The text of Florida’s new Church Carry bill can be found by clicking here.