Carrying a Firearm During a State of Emergency
As Hurricane Dorian approaches Florida, we thought it important to remind everyone of the laws regarding firearms that may apply to them as they prepare to evacuate their homes and head to safety. In 2015, Governor Scott signed into law an “Emergency Concealed Carry” bill. The law is found in Florida Statutes 790.01 (3)(a) and in relevant 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:
- The Governor or local authorities issue or declare a State of Emergency
- There is a MANDATORY evacuation order issued.
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.
Carrying a Firearm while evacuating to a border state
Many people may be considering evacuating to a surrounding State because of Hurricane Dorian. 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 subject to their laws and restrictions. Both Georgia and Alabama allow those without permits to carry 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 any 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.
Defending against Looters.
A question many people may have on their minds is, “Can I shoot if these people loot?” The answer isn’t black and white, and here is the reason why: In the state of Florida, we have statutory protection offered by the Castle Doctrine found in Florida Statute 776.013. This law stems from the old saying that a man’s home is his castle and he should, therefore, be allowed to protect it with no duty to retreat.
During Hurricane Dorian or at any other time, if someone has unlawfully and with force entered your dwelling, residence or occupied vehicle or is attempting to enter unlawfully and by force, the law presumes that you as the defender hold a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm if you use or threaten to use defensive force that is intended to or likely to cause death or great bodily harm.
But if the looter is simply on your property, outside your home attempting to steal the things you placed outside while cleaning up the interior of your home, you would not have the same legal presumption of reasonableness, and the Castle Doctrine would not apply. In fact, Florida law does not allow you to use deadly force to protect only your property. Florida law will offer you no protection if you use deadly force against someone committing a theft from outside a home—even if the person is looting in the wake of a disaster, you should not shoot in this circumstance.
The law does, however, allow a person to use force or deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using such force is necessary to prevent the looter from the imminent commission of a forcible felony, including burglary and robbery. However, deadly force may NOT be used to stop them from getting away with your property after a robbery, aggravated robbery, burglary, or other forcible felony.