Even though the law is less than a day old, we have been contacted repeatedly by church security and temple security teams from around the state. The questions they are asking are all the same and are discussed herein. Unfortunately, although many favored the right to carry firearms at religious services, they now feel they got more than they wanted. We will attempt to assist in the problems they have identified in this article by listing their questions and providing the best answer possible after less than 24 hours has passed since the bill became law.
The first question has come from both a Temple Security provider and several Church Security teams.
- So if we have a stand alone religious school with NO synagogue or Church attached is the site still bound by the no carry on school property law?
Under the new law, it does not appear that the actual use of the property owned, rented, leased, borrowed, or lawfully used by a religious institution is a factor. The law allows Concealed Weapon and Firearm License (CWFL) holders to carry concealed on any property owned, rented, leased, borrowed, or lawfully used by a religious institution. This means that if a religious institution owns a property that they use only to run a school, a CWFL holder could carry on that property.
2. If a sign on the building is posted conspicuously stating “NO FIREARMS” is that enough? If not, how does one communicate a no carry policy?
The new law specifically reserves to the religious institution the right to prohibit firearms on property that they own, rent, lease, borrow, or lawfully use. A person with authority over the property, such as an authorized Church Security or Temple Security team member can notify those entering the property that firearms are not allowed. Under Florida law, signage is not specifically authorized as a method of providing notice. In fact, earlier versions of the bill included language allowing for the posting of “NO FIREARM” signs as a form of notice, but this language was removed. Therefore, each individual on the property would need to be told that firearms were not allowed.
3. If we must verbally inform everyone, how do we prove we conveyed the no firearms policy?
Two ways can be used to prove that the policy was conveyed. First, the person who conveyed the policy could testify that they specifically told the person in question that the institution had a no firearms policy and that therefore the person would not be able to carry on the institutions property even though they had a CWFL. The second way to prove the policy was communicated would be to ask members of the congregation to sign a written policy stating that they understand that the institution does not allow them to possess a firearm on the property; however, every time a new individual who had not received notice came onto the property, they would need to be told of the policy and asked to sign the form.
4. Many sites do not want concealed weapons on their property without some protocols/screening because it impacts our volunteer armed security / hired armed security / off duty law enforcement on site contracted to provide security, how can we handle this?
Well the good news is that under the new law, volunteer armed temple security or church security groups can help secure your religious services even if there is a school on the property of the religious institution. In the past, this has been the biggest issue faced by small religious institutions which could not afford to hire licensed, armed security, so that problem has been solved. Unfortunately, for groups who only want their chosen few to carry concealed on their property, the new law creates problems. In order to limit the number of people carrying on the property of the institution, the steps above in questions number 2 and 3 would have to be implemented. An institution is certainly free to tell its members that only those who have been screened and approved can carry a firearm on property, but they must give actual notice to those who they are prohibiting from carrying who possess a valid CWFL.
5. Based on your previous advice against using volunteer armed security, does the new law change your position on the legality and wisdom of having a volunteer armed temple security or church security team?
This is a long complicated answer which we have explored at length in another article. To view the answer, please click here.
As we get more questions, we will continue to update this article, so check back for updates.
To learn more about the new law, click here.
To read House Bill 259 which was signed into law, click here.