Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Judge: Florida Gun Law 'Odd' and 'Irrational'

"There is no constitutional right to bear arms on private property against the owner’s wishes.."
Florida Retail Federation v. Attorney General of Florida, No. Dist. of Fla. Case No. :08cv179-RH/WCS (July 28, 2008)
Yesterday, U.S. Northern Florida District Judge Robert Hinkle released a 39-page ruling [pdf alert] giving his preliminary views on the constitutionality of the new Florida Guns-at-Work law. The statute, which was to go into effect July 1, was drafted by Northwest Florida's village idiot, Durrell Peaden and passed by the legislature earlier this year.

The court's decision is "preliminary" because plaintiff, the Florida Retail Association, had asked for an injunction against the law pending a full trial on the merits. Essentially, the case pits the constitutional rights of property owners -- in this case, businesses -- against the constitutional right "to bear arms."

Most media news accounts are representing the ruling as a "draw." That is simply not true. Applying familiar principles of equal protection and due process of law to the language of Peaden's guns-to-work statute, the court's ruling essentially eviscerates all parts of the statute that would have changed prior state law.

To be sure, the judge did decide that the law is "valid to the extent it compels a Florida business to allow a worker — if he or she has a permit to carry a concealed weapon — to secure a gun in a vehicle in a parking lot." But as the judge also notes, that was the state of Florida law before Peaden began sucking up to the gun lobby.

"The only change the statute makes," the opinion concludes, "is that, if a business chooses to provide parking, the business may not keep guns from being secured in a vehicle. "

The more salient part of the ruling strikes at the core of the new statute because the judge holds that --
the statute is unconstitutional to the extent it compels some businesses but not others — with no rational basis for the distinction — to allow a customer to secure a gun in a vehicle.
As the judge's opinion notes, under prior law "private property owners in Florida had the unfettered right to ban members of the general public from bringing guns onto the property. *** [T]he decision whether to ban or allow guns rested with the property owner."

That remains the case today. Peaden's new law would have changed that only insofar as it attempted to extend the privilege of packing weapons while on the employer's premises to an "employee." But in defining who is an "employee" Peaden and his fellow gun-hugging legislators used words that "do not comport with ordinary English usage nor with the terms’ commonly applied legal definitions."

Instead, Peaden's statute defines an “employee” as --
a person “who possesses a valid license issued pursuant to s. 790.06”— that is, who has a valid Florida permit to carry a concealed weapon—and who is either an employee (as the term is ordinarily used) or an independent contractor or a volunteer. § 790.251(2)(c). The statute defines “employer” as a business in any form — including, for example, a sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation— or public-sector entity “that has employees.” § 790.251(2)(d) (emphasis added). Thus a business is an “employer” as defined in the statute only if it has one or more workers who have a valid Florida concealed-carry permit.
The judge adds, "In plain, unambiguous language, the statute defines an 'employee' as a person with a valid Florida concealed-carry permit." That is an "odd" definition, he says with admirable understatement, but a court is powerless to re-write the law even if it leads to "absurd" results.

The logical result of Peaden's drafting is that "a business that does not have at least one worker with a concealed-carry permit is not subject to any of these provisions." In other words -- no surprise, here -- Durrell Peaden can't read or write well enough to draft a valid law.

Legally speaking, the court's opinion is most notable for recognizing that any constitutional "right to bear arms" applies, when at all, only against unreasonable governmental regulation:
[A] private business’s banning of guns on its own property plainly is not unconstitutional; there is no constitutional right to bear arms on private property against the owner’s wishes. [emphasis added]
Politically speaking, the court also found evidence that the "real world" effect of Peaden's law is negligible.
[C]ommon sense conclusions might lead a reasonable legislator to conclude that allowing workers with concealed-carry permits to keep guns in business parking lots would have either a small net positive or small net negative effect on overall public safety.
It would "rarely make any difference at all," the court concludes.

That should concern Durrell Peaden's constituents, in this time of rising prices and unemployment alongside plunging house prices and tight credit.

"What is Peaden doing in Tallahassee,
" they may well ask, "wasting time on laws that have a 'negligible' effect while back here in the 'real world' we are suffering an economic crisis?"


Anonymous said...

I realize this is old news now but you do realize that any one that has a concealed carry permit has had a very intensive background check. They dont just hand them out. Your insulting tone about Judge Peaden's reading and writing skills took what was a thought out, albeit incorrect, blog and made it nothing more than a personal attack on Judge Peaden. If you may think the law has a "overall negligible effect" then you may wish to re read what you yourself wrote. The negligible effect is the effect it will have on the business's themselves. It will however have a massive effect on my rights and the rights of other gun owners. Judge Peaden is doing exactly what we expect him to do as a member of the Judicial branch of our state government. He is interpreting the law according to the constitution of the US and FLorida. If your concern is our current economic stability or instability you may want to focus on someone who was put in office to have an effect on the economy possibly the legislature. There is a certain lack of undertanding of the branches of government in your article. I truly do not mean that as an insult. If you do feel insulted I apologize for that. Also if you do feel insulted I might suggest you educate yourself on the subject matter in the future. It makes it much harder to pick apart your argument.....but lots more fun.

Right wing Christian Gun owner
God Bless

Anonymous said...

Oops let me clarify something I wrote faster than I proofread...

"The negligible effect is the effect it will have on the business's themselves."

Refers of course to the safety of those at the business and the general public..

This law is not about safety its about constitutional rights.

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