Sean Caranna brings up a very interesting issue in Florida, regarding concealed carry. Depending on how your state’s concealed carry statute is put together can depend on whether a police officer can lawfully stop, and sometimes arrest you, if he suspects you’re carrying a concealed firearm. Some states generally outlaw carrying of a concealed firearm, and make an exception for persons licensed to do so. Other states make it illegal to carry a concealed weapon without a license to do so. Pennsylvania’s Uniform Firearms Act is constructed the in the latter manner.
I remember speaking to a lawyer who told me the slight wording in language, even though it seems to be the same, could be used by the courts to determine whether or not suspicion that someone is carrying a firearm could be a pretext for a stop. In the former construction, where concealed carry is illegal except by exception, it could be read as allowing for a stop, because carrying a concealed is a crime, generally, so the officer is justified in the stop to ensure the person falls under the exception. In the latter construction it can’t be a pretext for a stop, because it’s only unlawful to carry without a license to do so, so an additional element is required to make a stop. An officer must not only have reasonable, articulable suspicion that the person is carrying a concealed firearm, but also reasonable, articulable suspicion that the person does not have a license to do so.
New Jersey guns laws are constructed entirely the same way Florida’s carry law is. Firearms in New Jersey are generally illegal. You can only own them under exceptions to the general law. While it’s difficult to see how that can be a proper means of regulating a fundamental constitutional right, it’s one reason New Jersey gets away with abuses that it’s difficult to get away with in other state. Hopefully Florida can change the wording of its statute to fix this.