The Florida Court of Appeal has issued a groundbreaking decision extending the interpretation of the state’s “stand your ground” law. The court’s ruling, involving defendant Richard Burns, held that loading and openly carrying a gun in one’s own yard does not constitute criminal use of deadly force. Burns, represented by Ari S. Goldberg and Lawrence M. Meltzer of Meltzer & Bell, P.A., was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after a confrontation with a tree-cutting crew in his yard. Despite the crew making inappropriate gestures and threatening his dogs, Burns only openly carried and loaded his firearm, without pointing it at anyone.
The trial court initially denied Burns’ motion for immunity from prosecution, deeming his act of loading a round in his gun to be “menacing.” The Florida Court of Appeal disagreed, ruling that the mere display of a firearm constitutes non-deadly force as a matter of law, thus supporting Burns’ right to self-defense.
The court’s decision recognized the Second Amendment rights of homeowners, emphasizing that firearms must be readily available and loaded for effective self-defense. The court pointed to specific Florida laws providing the right to openly carry a weapon on one’s property and display it “not in necessary self-defense.” These rulings underscore the recognition of a firearm as not just a collector’s item, but a tool for self-defense.
The court found that once the crew refused Burns’ demand to leave his property, they became trespassers. This status justified Burns’ right to use non-deadly force, including openly carrying and loading his firearm, to terminate the trespass and protect his property. Given these factors, the court granted Burns’ immunity from prosecution for his use of his firearm during the confrontation, ordering the trial court to dismiss the charge against him. This significant extension of the “stand your ground” law in Florida adds a new dimension to the ongoing national debate on gun rights and self-defense.