Months after the Florida Legislature rejected a measure to allow concealed weapon permit holders to carry their guns openly in public, the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday heard oral arguments in a case that could lead to the legalization of 'open carry', after all.

  • Florida Supreme Court deliberating whether to let Floridians openly carry guns in public
  • A Florida man is challenging the state's current ban on open carry as unconstitutional
  • The high court on Wednesday held a hearing on the case

The case, Norman v. State, was brought by a man found guilty of violating a state statute that outlaws the open carrying of firearms and has become a vehicle for Florida's gun lobby to win approval of open carry in the wake of the legislative defeat.

In defending the statute, lawyers for the state argued it helps prevent inflamed tensions, sparked by the sight of a gun, that could lead to violence. The reasoning largely mirrored claims made by public safety advocates that allowing open carry would amount to a tinderbox in a state known for its family-friendly atmosphere.

Far from causing crime, however, the plaintiff's attorney told the justices would-be criminals might think twice before acting if they saw a holstered gun in plain view. He also pushed back at claims that gun owners could themselves become targets.

"We've got some corollaries to that: women should not be dressed in revealing clothing because that might entice a rapist, or people should not wear expensive jewelry because that might tempt them to be stolen," said the attorney, Eric Friday. "We don't regulate the behavior and the conduct of law-abiding citizens based on what criminals might try to take from them."

As the justices begin deliberating the case, their questions during Wednesday's arguments indicate they're sharply divided over the constitutionality of the statute. Justice Barbara Pariente, a member of the court's liberal wing, suggested that outlawing open carry falls under the umbrella of the state's legal regulation of firearms.

"This isn't a ban," Pariente said. "It's just a ban on the method of carrying that the Legislature apparently has determined protects public safety more than people walking around like they're in the wild west."