Florida law, specifically F.S.§790.335, prohibits any state governmental agency or local government, special district, or other political subdivision or official, agent, or employee of such state or other governmental entity or any other person, public or private, from knowingly and willfully keeping or causing to be kept any list, record, or registry of privately owned firearms or any list, record, or registry of the owners of those firearms.
The Florida Legislature finds that a “list, record, or registry of legally owned firearms or law-abiding firearm owners is not a law enforcement tool and can become an instrument for profiling, harassing, or abusing law-abiding citizens based on their choice to own a firearm and exercise their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed under the United States Constitution. Further, such a list, record, or registry has the potential to fall into the wrong hands and become a shopping list for thieves.”
Unfortunately,even when the law is clear and unambiguous, violations still occur. A recent case has come to my attention that violates the letter and spirit of the law as well as the express findings of the legislature. A gun owner was involved in a car accident. Before being transported to the hospital and being a responsible gun owner the victim informed the investigating officer that there were two firearms in the vehicle. Concerned that the guns would be out of his custody and control while he was at the hospital receiving treatment, the victim asked the law enforcement officer to hold the firearms for safekeeping. The victim did what any reasonable and responsible gun owner should do. What happened next should give us all cause for concern.
The law enforcement officer proceeded to prepare an incident report, listing in detail the make, model and calibers of the firearms as well as the precise number of rounds in each. Please keep in mind that the incident report also contains the name, address, date of birth and vehicle tag number of the victim. Incident reports of this nature are public record, giving inquiring minds everything they need to know about this person and their firearms. It is also important to note that the victim committed no crime and was not under an investigation for committing a crime, he was merely involved in a car accident, a foreseeable situation for any gun owner that uses a motor vehicle for transportation.
Making matters even worse, the law enforcement officer editorialized in the report that he found the victim’s possession of two guns unusual and further stated that the victim “claimed he needed [the guns] for self-defense. If this ever happened to me and the guys I hunt with we would be in big trouble as we usually have enough arms to invade a small country with us and certainly more than two.
The law enforcement agency in question refuses to redact the information despite numerous requests by the responsible gun owner who was merely exercising a constitutional right. The officer could have stated in the report that guns were taken into possession and then given the victim a property receipt identifying the specific guns but not making them available to the public.
What concerns me even more than the creation of a gun list is the officer’s attitude that having guns in the vehicle is “unusual” and that the victim “claimed” he needed them for self defense. The Florida Constitution, in the grant of the right to keep and bear arms, states that the people have a right to have weapons in defense of themselves, so why would having guns be unusual and why would the claim that they are need for self defense be suspicious? Either the officer has a personal bias against gun owners or is being trained to have a bias, neither of which is acceptable.
The price of liberty is eternal vigilance and we the people must guard jealously our rights and liberties. While this story may seem like a small or trivial matter in the grand scheme of things I can assure you that it is not and it is indicative of the challenges facing law abiding gun owners in the exercise of their God given rights. If this or something similar has happened to you please contact me.