Ask a Lawyer: No concealed weapons where alcohol is served

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By Pierce Kelley

M. C. of Otter Creek writes, “I went to my favorite local bar the other night to have a few beers and shoot some pool. This one guy who drank too much got a little mean after I beat him for the fifth time and I thought he was going to come after me with his cue stick. I’ve got a concealed weapon permit and I carry a gun wherever I go as a general rule, so I showed him my gun and warned him. Next thing I know, I get thrown out of the bar and the owner tells me I’m lucky he didn’t call the police. Can he do that?


Dear M. C.:

Your question reminds me of a story I heard from a local fishing guide here in Cedar Key. For over fifty years, the L & M Saloon was the late night spot in Cedar Key and it saw more than its share of fights over the years. The guide told me that things got so bad that the owners of the L & M hired some bouncers to search people as they came into the bar for guns or knives, and if the person didn’t have either a gun or a knife the bouncers gave them one because he or she was going to need it!

But the answer to your question is this…pursuant to Florida Statute 790.12(a)(12) a person may not carry a concealed weapon into…

‘any portion of an establishment licensed to dispense alcoholic beverages for consumption, which portion of the establishment is primarily devoted to such purpose.”

So you were lucky that you weren’t arrested, and now you know better than to do it again, but the last portion of that statute is interesting in that it seems to permit a person to carry a concealed weapon, which can be a knife or a gun, into a portion of the establishment which does not serve alcoholic beverages as its primary purpose. I find that to be strange, but that is how the statute reads. So if you’re on the side of the establishment where the primary purpose is serving food, you’re safe, but you can’t walk to the other side of the establishment where the primary purpose is to serve alcohol, or you are subject to arrest.

Now, M.C., although you didn’t ask, the really pertinent and relevant question concerning weapons, whether concealed or not, is about the “stand your ground” law. The Zimmerman case has focused much national attention on Florida and Florida Statute 776, entitled Justifiable Use of Force. That statute, enacted in October of 2005, allows people to defend themselves in a car, dwelling or place of business and use deadly force, if necessary, where the person has a reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm. It also allows the use of force to defend another person, if that person is a member of his or her family, or if that person has a legal duty to protect the person being assaulted.

Generally speaking, the “duty to retreat” when faced with a threat of bodily harm still exists in Florida. The changes in the law put into effect in October of 2005 carved some exceptions to the legal requirement that a person must make an effort to avoid a physical confrontation when faced with a threat. 

However, a person may stand his or her ground and not retreat, and use deadly force to defend himself or herself when “he or she reasonably believes such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.” The facts of each case will be different and whether or not the use of deadly force was justified will depend upon what law enforcement authorities decide after they complete their investigation, so one must always be extremely careful when displaying, let alone discharging, a gun. The Zimmerman case is ample authority for that statement and, since the victim is not able to present his side of the story, all of the facts surrounding that incident will never be known.

I have answered your question, M. C., and, even though it is not the answer you were wanting to receive, I’m sure, I hope you found it to be useful information. Be careful out there.

Any readers with specific legal questions for this “Ask a Lawyer” column are invited to submit those questions to the Editor of this newspaper who will pass it along to the attorney. If you need assistance with a consumer matter, such as an unfair and deceptive collection practice, or garnishment of wages, a mortgage foreclosure or other such things, and you cannot afford an attorney, call the Legal Services office closest to you, which provides free legal assistance to qualified individuals, or call the Florida Bar Referral service at 1-800-342-8011. I wish you good luck in obtaining access to our legal system, no matter what your income and asset level might be. 

The foregoing was written by attorney Pierce Kelley, who is a member of the Florida Bar Association. The contents reflect his personal opinions and beliefs.