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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

NRA seeks to weigh in on open-carry case before Florida Supreme Court

8

April

UPDATE: 2:55 p.m. -- The Florida Supreme Court this afternoon granted the NRA's request to file an amicus brief in the case.

ORIGINAL STORY: 1:53 p.m. --

The National Rifle Association has filed a motion in the Florida Supreme Court to appear as a "friend of the court" on behalf of a man challenging Florida's law banning the open-carrying of handguns.

The court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in June in the lawsuit filed by Dale Norman, who was arrested and charged with open-carrying in 2012 in St. Lucie County. He was later found guilty of a misdemeanor and sued to challenge the state law.

The 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that regulating the open-carrying of firearms does not violate the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The state's top court will consider Norman's appeal this summer.

In its motion, the National Rifle Association said it has an interest in the case on behalf of its 300,000 members in Florida.

"A decision holding that open and peaceful bearing of arms is not constitutionally protected conduct would expose these NRA members to legal jeopardy and defense costs," wrote the NRA's Tallahassee-based attorney, Jason Gonzalez.

Gonzalez notes that the NRA was "deeply involved" in crafting legislation this past session that would have allowed 1.5 million people with concealed weapons in Florida to openly carry handguns.

The legislation -- sponsored by father-son duo Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach -- passed the House but stalled in the Senate. Judiciary Chairman Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, refused to take it up, calling the measure unnecessary and potentially dangerous.

The NRA's lobbyist, Marion Hammer, said the legislation was necessary to stop what she called the unwarranted prosecution of gun-owners who openly carried by accident, such as when their shirt briefly rode up or when a gun became visible inside a woman's purse. (In Norman's case, he had been carrying his gun in a holster on his hip while walking down a street in Fort Pierce when someone alerted 911.)

Democratic lawmakers in the House sought provisions to ease those concerns about inadvertent open-carry, but Republicans rejected adding them to the proposed bill. Hammer has said the only solution is to allow open carry altogether.

The Florida Supreme Court in January granted "Everytown for Gun Safety" -- which advocates for gun-control laws -- the ability to file a "friend of the court" brief in Norman's case. The NRA says it will provide more detailed evidence to refute that group's claims, if it's allowed to submit a brief of its own.

Read the NRA's request here.

[Last modified: Friday, April 8, 2016 2:57pm]

    

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