TALLAHASSEE — Florida is already gun friendly, so the U.S. Supreme Court decision Thursday bolstering individual gun rights likely will not have an immediate impact on state gun laws. It could, however, affect a federal court case involving a controversial new law allowing people to keep guns in their cars at work.
The high court decision came a day after U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in Tallahassee quizzed lawyers about the scope of the Second Amendment as he considered a new law that allows people with concealed weapons permits to keep their guns in their cars at work.
The law pits gun rights versus private property rights and stirred a battle between two factions of the Republican Party — big business and gun-rights advocates. The Florida Retail Federation and the Florida Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit to stop the guns-to-work law from taking effect Tuesday. Hinkle said his busy schedule will keep him from deciding before Tuesday, though he could rule by mid July.
The limitations of the Second Amendment came up a few times during a hearing this week as lawyers debated whether the Legislature had a "rational" basis for passing the law. During the two-hour hearing Wednesday, Hinkle pointed out that the Second Amendment's right to bear arms is written in terms of preventing government from disarming militias. He said the Second Amendment didn't extend to self-defense against private persons.
That changed Thursday when the Supreme Court decided for the first time that individuals have a right to bear arms for self-defense. NRA attorney Chris Kise said the decision bolsters their case that lawmakers knew what they were doing when they passed a law protecting employees' and customers' rights to keep guns for self-defense in their cars, no matter where the cars are parked.
But Barry Richard, the Florida Retail Federation's attorney, insisted that Thursday's decision does not affect the Florida case. He said the Supreme Court case dealt with curtailing gun rights, and the Florida case deals with curtailing private property rights.
A few legal professors agreed with Kise. Jon Mills, a law professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville, said, "It does have an effect, and it will be on people's minds from now on."