As Hurricane Irma approaches Florida, we thought it important to remind our Members 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 new 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” for Hurricane Irma 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.
Evacuation Ahead of Hurricane Irma
It is important to note that the law does not go into effect unless two things have happened:
1) The Governor or local authorities issue or declare a State of Emergency
2) There is a MANDATORY evacuation order issued.
If both of the above conditions have been met for Hurricane Irma, 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.
Getting Out Ahead of Hurricane Irma
Many of our members may be considering evacuating to a surrounding state because of Hurricane Irma.
Both Georgia and Alabama recognize Florida’s CWFL, however, the emergency evacuation law is not recognized and only a CWFL holder 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 do not have a CWFL and you are headed to Alabama ahead of Hurricane Irma, make sure to properly secure your unloaded firearm before you cross the state line. —by David Katz, Independent Program Attorney for U.S. LawShield of Florida