With the new school year already underway in Florida, our children are learning in entirely new ways including virtual learning options. Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, educational institutions and public-school districts have devised new, hopefully safe, and effective ways to educate Florida’s students. In person education is still around, but statewide, less than 50% of students are actually sitting in a classroom with a teacher in front of them learning in the old, traditional manner. The need to social distance has led to far greater enrollment in Florida’s Virtual School system. Additionally, local school based online learning has become a popular option for more than 35% of Florida’s school aged children. Anti-gunners have acted quickly to use this situation to their advantage.
This new paradigm in education effects all Floridians in multiple ways. From the need for less school bus drivers and less personnel at the schools to support the student body, to the businesses suffering less demand for new school clothes and beyond. One change we as gun-owners need to consider is whether this new “at-home” learning model affects our right to own firearms or possess them in our homes and in what ways will the anti-gun lobby try to gain an advantage based on this situation.
No Firearms at School Sponsored Events!
Florida Statute §790.115(2)(a), in relevant part reads, “A person shall not possess any firearm, electric weapon or device, destructive device, or other weapon as defined in s. 790.001(13), including a razor blade or box cutter, except as authorized in support of school-sanctioned activities, at a school-sponsored event or on the property of any school, school bus, or school bus stop;”
Online Education is a School Sponsored Event!
Certainly, online education provided by the public-school district and received by a student in their home is a school sponsored event. To allow for greater “social distancing” if the school board were to set up remote learning sites where students would gather to receive instruction via the internet, off school property, there could be no argument that the prohibition found in 790.115, would preclude the carry of a firearm at these remote learning centers because this would obviously be a school sponsored event. Why then, can’t the same argument be made to keep Floridians from owning and possessing firearms in their home where their student is receiving a school sponsored education?
Online Education Leads to Search of Home!
In fact, we have already seen evidence of anti-gunners using home-based education to attempt to interfere with the Second Amendment rights we as Americans all have. Incidents of police responding to calls regarding guns in students’ homes during class have been reported on the news.
The most widely covered incident occurred in Maryland, when the police showed up at the home of a student (11 years old) because the teacher saw a gun in his bedroom during a virtual class. In his pursuit of becoming an Eagle Scout, this child learned how to shoot a BB gun and an airsoft gun. He has also taken three levels of archery lessons according to his mother, Courtney Lancaster, a Navy veteran. Ms. Lancaster told reporters that her son stores his bow and BB guns on this wall in his bedroom. This had never been a problem until June 1, when police pulled up outside her house. Ms. Lancaster was told the guns were seen in her son’s bedroom during an online class on his laptop.
Someone apparently took a screenshot during the online class. It was given to the principal, and reported to the school safety officer. The school safety officer then called police.
Ms. Lancaster agreed to allow the officers to search her home. No violations were found. The police left within 20 minutes of their arrival. In follow-up conversations with the school administration, The principal told Ms. Lancaster that having a weapon visible during a virtual class was comparable to bringing a gun to school.
Possessing a Firearm in your Home Online Educational Environment!
Is there a real threat to Floridian’s gun rights? Academically, this is an interesting question, however, it is one that should be simple to answer. In our opinion courts will NOT interpret home education caused by the pandemic as a school sponsored event or activity which would require parents to remove firearms from their homes. Interpreting it otherwise would cause conflict with long standing Florida laws that specifically allow Floridians to possess firearms in their homes and would also infringe on 2nd Amendment rights.
The Supreme Court and the 2nd Amendment
Importantly, in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), Justice Scalia wrote the opinion for the US Supreme Court and found that, “[u]nder any of the standards of scrutiny that we have applied to enumerated constitutional rights, banning from the home ‘the most preferred firearm in the nation to ‘keep’ and use for protection of one’s home and family,’ would fail constitutional muster.” The Heller case clearly established that U.S. citizens have a right to keep firearms in their home for defensive purposes.
What Happens Next?
Only time will tell what new strategies the anti-gun movement will develop based on this new paradigm in education. Rest assured that we are here to help should you feel that your gun rights have been violated due to your child’s participation in an at home learning solution.
DISCLAIMER: This article is NOT intended to be legal advice. Consult with a highly qualified Florida firearm attorney who can provide advice based on your circumstances. Any law cited on the website of Katz & Phillips, P.A. – The Firearm Firm is Florida Law unless otherwise stated. Please check with an attorney licensed in your state if outside of Florida.