Can I carry a concealed firearm to church?

With the recent church shooting in Charleston, our office has received many questions asking if it is legal to carry a concealed weapon to church with a CWL, or concealed weapons license. Currently, there are no laws in Florida that forbid carrying a concealed weapon inside or on the grounds of a religious institution except in portions which may constitute a  church school.

Studies have shown that mass murders often pick places to attack where the attacker believes they cannot be attacked in retaliation. These “Gun Free Zones” are usually churches, schools, and former places of employment. The next question then becomes can a church hire armed security guards to defend against the crazy shooters?

Each state has their own rules regarding when guns may be brought and you should investigate them.

Chapter 493 of the Florida Statues permits only law enforcement and individuals that posses a “G” license to carry firearms in security work, even as a volunteer. However, a volunteer could still be armed with a Taser, or another weapon that is not a firearm.

South Carolina has much stricter gun laws than most of the south, and prevents someone from bringing a concealed weapon to church unless the church gives the carrier permission to bring the firearm. In 2011, South Carolina turned down a bill that would have loosened gun ownership and allowed gun owners to bring their firearms to restaurants, day care centers, and churches. A law signed two weeks ago in South Carolina can punish those who commit domestic violence with a lifetime gun ban.

So what does it mean to carry a concealed firearm?  Florida defines a concealed firearm is “any firearm… which is carried on or about a person in such a manner as to conceal the firearm from the ordinary sight of another person,” according to Florida Statute 790.001(2). The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is the agency responsible for issuing the concealed carry license.

To obtain a concealed weapon license in Florida a person must meet the following requirements:

  1. You must be a resident and citizen of the United States
  2. You must be at least 21 years old
  3. You do not suffer from a disability that renders you unable to handle a firearm safely
  4. You are not a convicted felon
  5. You have not been convicted of a controlled substance crime under Chapter 893
  6. You do not chronically and habitually use alcoholic beverages
  7. You intend to use a firearm for self-defense purposes only
  8. You must demonstrate competence with a firearm
  9. You are not incapacitated according to the definition in Florida Statute 744.331
  10. You cannot have been committed to a mental institution
  11. You have not been sentenced for a crime of domestic violence within past 3 years
  12. You are not subject to an injunction
  13. Any other law, state or federal, does not prohibit you from possessing a firearm.

If you are planning to carry a gun to church we recommend that you find out what the laws are your state regarding churches and schools and consider using a Gun Trust to own the firearm, while this will not limit liability it will deal with the firearms properly upon your incapacity or death.  In addition, if you are using NFA Firearms which can permit multiple users of the firearms without violation of the National Firearms Act. For more information, please contact us at 904-685-1200.

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