Robin Fuson
By:

Florida’s New Gun Law

Criminal Defense

Florida’s new gun legislation is a response to the February 14th shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

The new gun statute, Senate Bill 7026, also known as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, includes these five major provisions:

You must now be 21 years old to purchase a firearm in Florida. This provision would have stopped school shooter Nikolas Cruz, who was 19, from legally purchasing the weapon used in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings.

You now must wait three days, or until a background check is completed, to purchase a firearm in Florida, with very narrow exceptions.

School employees may be armed – it’s up to each county’s school system. The new legislation sets aside $67 million for a voluntary training program to allow coaches, counselors, and librarians – but not classroom teachers – to be armed at school.

Security at school buildings will increase – $98 million in additional funds are designated for enhanced building security and for more full-time security officers on campus.

Mental health programs are being expanded – $69 million is being set aside for that expansion – and police officers in Florida now may temporarily confiscate firearms from anyone who is being involuntarily evaluated under the state’s Baker Act.

Counties that choose not to arm their school employees may redirect those funds to recruit more school security officers, according to Governor Scott.

DOES THE NEW LAW DIRECTLY BAN ANY SPECIFIC FIREARM PURCHASES?

The new law also bans firearm purchases by Floridians who have been committed or who have been deemed incompetent, and it allows police departments – with a judge’s approval – to keep anyone deemed dangerous from legally owning any firearms for as long as a year.

When Governor Scott signed the legislation in March, the National Rifle Association (NRA) challenged the law immediately in federal court, saying the age requirement is unconstitutional.

Governor Scott praised the Florida Legislature for acting swiftly after the shooting in Parkland, and he added, “The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do as governor is try to find the words to console a parent who has lost their child.”

WHAT GUN CONTROL MEASURES ARE NOT INCLUDED IN THE NEW LAW?

Critics of the new legislation contend that Senate Bill 7026 falls far short of what is actually needed for public safety. The new law, for instance, does not ban AR-15 sales, other “assault” weapons, or high-capacity magazines.

The law also does not require any additional background checks. Federal law mandates background checks for firearm purchases from licensed dealers, but private sales still may not always be subject to thorough background checks.

The Valentine’s Day shooting left seventeen students and teachers dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, near Fort Lauderdale. It also added urgency to the decades-long national debate over gun control.

Across the nation, high school students expressed support for and solidarity with the shooting’s young survivors, who have led an emotional campaign to ban assault weapons.

IF YOU ARE CHARGED WITH A GUN CRIME, WHO CAN HELP YOU?

But without regard to what you may think about gun control, everyone in Florida needs to know the state’s gun laws.

If you are charged with a firearms violation in Florida, you must have representation and advice from an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney.

The gun laws in Florida – both the new statute and the existing laws – are complex and technical, so it is not hard to make a mistake, get confused, and find yourself facing a firearms charge.

WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF A FIREARMS VIOLATION CONVICTION?

Convictions for firearms violations in Florida can be punished with jail or prison time, probation, fines, and restrictions on your right to own a firearm.

A weapons conviction is a risk for those with professional licenses in Florida – it could result in a license revocation or suspension.

And a law enforcement or private security officer convicted of a weapons violation in this state will probably have to find a different line of work.

WHAT ARE THE MOST FREQUENTLY-COMMITTED GUN CRIMES IN FLORIDA?

Listed here are the top firearms crimes in Florida – and the punishments that may be imposed on convicted offenders:

Carrying a concealed firearm: Although there are several narrow exceptions, in most cases in Florida, carrying a concealed firearm is a third-degree felony punishable upon conviction with a fine of up to $5,000, probation, and up to five years in prison.

Permitting a minor below 16 years of age to have access to a loaded firearm: A conviction is punishable with a $500 fine and up to sixty days in jail.

Improper exhibition of a dangerous firearm or weapon: The charge is a first-degree misdemeanor. A conviction is punishable by up to a year in jail, probation, and a $1,000 fine.

Possessing or discharging a weapon at a school-sponsored event: The charge is a third-degree felony. A conviction is punishable by up to five years in prison, probation, and a $5,000 fine.

WHAT IS THE “10-20-LIFE” RULE?

When a firearm is used to commit a crime in Florida, the state’s “10-20-Life” rule comes into play. Here’s how it works:

If a firearm is brandished during a violent crime, the penalty for a conviction is at least a ten-year prison term. If the firearm is discharged in the commission of a violent crime, the penalty for a conviction is at least a twenty-year prison term.

The penalty for a conviction is twenty-five years-to-life if someone is shot or killed in the commission of a violent crime.

While the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was an immense tragedy, the reality is that Florida’s police officers must deal with gun violence every day.

WHAT’S AT STAKE IF YOU’RE ACCUSED OF A GUN CRIME?

Florida’s firearm laws are meant to reduce the amount of gun violence in our state and to punish the perpetrators of that violence.

In the Tampa Bay area or anywhere in Florida, if you’re arrested and charged with any weapons violation, exercise – politely – your right to remain silent and your right to a lawyer.

Then, immediately obtain the help of an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney.

If you’re charged with a gun crime, your future and freedom will be at stake, and Florida courts offer no leniency in these cases, so you must – immediately – obtain the legal assistance you’ll need.

Robin Fuson
By Robin Fuson