Article I, § 8(a) of the Florida Constitution provides: “[t]he right of the people to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves and of the lawful authority of the state shall not be infringed, except that the manner of bearing arms may be regulated by law.”1
The Supreme Court of Florida has held that the Florida Legislature has broad authority to regulate firearms for public health and safety purposes. In Rinzler v. Carson, the court held that a statute prohibiting the possession of a short-barreled long gun or a machine gun, Florida Statutes Annotated § 790.221, was a constitutional exercise of the state’s police power.2 The court established that “the right to keep and bear arms is not an absolute right, but is one which is subject to the right of the people through their legislature to enact valid police regulations to promote the health, morals, safety and general welfare of the people.”3 The court concluded that “the Legislature may prohibit the possession of weapons which are ordinarily used for criminal and improper purposes and which are not among those which are legitimate weapons of defense and protection” within the meaning of Fla. Const. art. I, § 8(a).4
The court also held, however, that section 790.221 did not prohibit the possession of “weapons not concealed upon the person, which, although designed to shoot more than one shot semi-automatically, are commonly kept and used by law-abiding people for hunting purposes or for the protection of their persons and property, such as semi-automatic shotguns, semi-automatic pistols and rifles.”5 Although the court stated that an absolute ban on such weapons might violate the people’s ability to “keep and bear arms,” the court noted that the Legislature “can regulate the use and the manner of bearing certain specific weapons.”6
Other Supreme Court of Florida cases have rejected challenges based on the precursor to Fla. Const. art. 1, § 8(a) (former “§ 20” of the Declaration of Rights of the Florida Constitution (1885)).7
- Fla. Const. Art. I, § 8.
- 262 So.2d 661, 665 (Fla. 1972).
- Id. at 666.
- Id. at 665.
- See, e.g., Nelson v. State, 195 So.2d 853, 855-56 (Fla. 1967) (rejecting § 20 challenge to Florida Statutes Annotated § 790.23, which prohibits the possession of certain firearms by convicted felons, as “a reasonable public safeguard”); Davis v. State, 146 So.2d 892, 894 (Fla. 1962) (rejecting § 20 challenge to Fla. Stat. § 790.05 (later repealed by Fla. Laws ch. 87-24), which criminalized the possession or carrying of certain firearms without a license so as to protect the people “from the bearing of weapons by the unskilled, the irresponsible, and the lawless”); and Carlton v. State, 58 So. 486, 488 (Fla. 1912) (rejecting § 20 challenge to Fla. Laws § 3263 (now Fla. Stat. Ann. § 790.02), which banned the carrying of concealed weapons, because the provision was “not designed as a shield for the individual man who is prone to load his stomach with liquor and his pockets with revolvers or dynamite, and make of himself a dangerous nuisance to society”).