No More Concealed Carry for Neighborhood Watch

Sanford, Florida plans to announce that anyone who has a concealed carry permit and chooses to carry a firearm may not participate in the Neighborhood Watch programs. They can carry their guns all they want, but they can’t be acting under any “authority” of Neighborhood Watch.

If you want to contribute to the safety of your community, you have to leave your gun behind and put your personal safety at risk.

While I do think that George Zimmerman made some less-than-perfect decisions on his infamous evening out, I don’t really see how anything that Sanford is proposing helps the situation.

Sanford officials claim that the ban on people legally carrying firearms will revitalize the image of the program that has reportedly suffered following the trial, but I’m not sure how telling me that I should give up my personal protection and take one for the team is an incentive to participate.

The real message they are sending here is that even though Floridians who are legally carrying a concealed firearm have already proven themselves to be law-abiding citizens, they cannot be trusted when it comes to neighborhood public safety issues. Do they think that concealed carry holders are going to give up the guns or give up the program first? I can pretty much assure you, it won’t be their personal protection.

41 thoughts on “No More Concealed Carry for Neighborhood Watch”

  1. While I’m perfectly willing to do my part in protecting and defending my neighborhood, experience no longer inclines me to do so as part of an “organization.” But, if I were going to participate in street patrols for an organized “Neighborhood Watch,” I would carry anyway, regardless of what the rules said. I just wouldn’t advertize it. What’s the worst that could happen to you, legally? They’ll tell you you aren’t allowed to play with them, anymore?

    (After not many weeks, I quit the Safety Patrol on my own, back in the Fifth Grade, and have gotten along fine not being an ersatz cop again for almost sixty years now.)

    1. I suspect most gun owners do their effort to protect neighborhoods without advertising it and without the blessing of a group as well. However, I can also say that if I had been a member of such a group and was no longer welcome, I probably wouldn’t make too much of an effort to do anything other than watch out for myself and the neighbors can just suffer the consequences. In a neighborhood that was seeing a bit of a crime increase, that kind of “checking out” on the part of the law-abiding is not a good thing.

    2. I will repost what Andrew had to say:

      One of the five elements of the law of self-defense is reasonableness. If there’s an established rule that if you choose to participate in Neighborhood Watch you cannot be armed, and knowing that rule you volunteer for Neighborhood Watch and nevertheless arm yourself, and then use that gun to kill someone, the Prosecutor will argue with considerable efficacy that your conduct in being armed was by definition not reasonable–you agreed to the “no gun” rule, suggesting you yourself believed it was a reasonable rule, and you broke it.

      I wouldn’t want to be in that spot.

      –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

      1. See? There’s a reason I no longer have to stop and think about why not to involve myself with organizations.

  2. I’m sure it’s driven by a fear of being named in a civil lawsuit. But you are right that they will lose some really good people from volunteering there.

    I volunteer with ham radio, for emergency communications. But i do it in a nearby city, instead of the one I live in. Why? Because my city is so openly anti-self protection, that I don’t find it worth it to risk my own life just so I can make them (falsely) believe they are safer. The other city, has no open animosity toward gun ownership. and many of those in leadership there own and shoot regularly.

  3. FL has preemption laws on the books since 1987. It would appear that the city passing an ordinance would violate the preemption statute.


    1. Edit to add – IANAL.

      And the statute that I could find:

      §790.33 Florida Statutes – Field of regulation of firearms and ammunition preempted
      “Except as expressly provided by general law, the Legislature hereby declares that it is occupying the whole field of regulation of firearms and ammunition, including the purchase, sale, transfer, taxation, manufacture, ownership, possession, and transportation thereof, to the exclusion of all existing and future county, city, town, or municipal ordinances or regulations relating thereto. Any such existing ordinances are hereby declared null and void.”

    2. Are you really sure that applies here? This is a rule that applies to registering a neighborhood watch group and achieve formal recognition. It’s not an ordinance impacting everyone. If the preemption statute is broad enough that it limits how government entities may regulate recognition of groups, then I guess it could apply. I’ll just say that a preemption law that broad would seem very odd since it would have to plan for every possible way someone might try to infringe on anything using any level of organization or government.

      UPDATE: Just saw your second comment. Again, I don’t really see how that governs a rule for achieving recognition.

      1. I’m not sure that it does apply in this case. And the IANAL continues to apply…

        Reading the statute on its face says the state legislature occupies the whole field. If that’s to be read literally, the city can’t pass any kind of firearms ordinance.

        If it’s based on registering as a group, couldn’t they regulate carry by members of the American Legion, or Rotary Club? Could they prevent a registered, and permitted demonstration from carrying firearms?

        I don’t know the answers, and the discussion is completely academic, in all likelihood. To me, it’s a matter of “Does the preemption law mean what it says? Or not?”

        1. In what jurisdiction do you believe non-profits like American Legion register with their local police departments? Issuing permits for demonstrations also isn’t typically handled by the police. Unless a Florida lawyer can clear up the standards, I do believe you’re wrong about the application of preemption to rules in having a formally recognized “club” by this specific body. If the police department was responsible for registering all clubs, then there might be a case. But this is one specific club that doesn’t really need recognition through this avenue, at least as far as I’m aware. There’s nothing stopping a group of citizens from forming their own organization for purposes of neighborhood surveillance and awareness and registering it through other legal means.

        2. The Neighborhood Watch program in Sanford is run under the aegis of the Sanford Police Department. Their game, their rules. If you participate, you’re agreeing to do so without benefit of a sidearm, and whatever other conditions they choose to impose. If you don’t want to comply, don’t participate. (Which is, I expect, their actual intent.)

          The American Legion and the Rotary Club are NOT subject to similar PD conditions because they are not subject to similar PD oversight.

          –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

              1. Ha, oops! Sorry, I guess I just assumed from your very specific and detailed coverage of the Zimmerman trial that you were in Florida. :)

                That said, I’m also sorry that you’re in Massachusetts as a former resident myself. ;)

                1. 3.5 more years for me in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, then my neighbors will see the smoke coming off my tires, and the Commonwealth will see a big “You’re #1” hand flip as I cross the border for the last time. :-)

                  –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

          1. “The Neighborhood Watch program in Sanford is run under the aegis of the Sanford Police Department.” – Where did you find this information? The Sanford Police Dept web page doesn’t say anything about it. USAonWatch indicates that Neighborhood Watch is a partnership with the police – not run by the police. In fact, it continually uses the phrase “assisted by police”.

            One of my points was this: Did the city pass the rule / ordinance? If so, then how did the city not violate FLs preemption law?

            I’ve never liked the “their game, their rules” idea. What do you think would happen if the city or PD said “Participants in Neighborhood Watch may not be female, black, or hispanic”?

            If the PD can require one club to register, and then implement a rule. Why couldn’t they require all clubs to register- and then implement the rule? Seems like a neat way to skirt preemption.

            I agree that their likely intent is to reduce participation in Neighborhood watch. I also agree that the outcomes on the linked Legal Insurrection page are the most likely.

            1. The law treats gender and race as protected classes, they get special rules. Possessing a CCW or merely being an American citizen is not a protected class. I didn’t make that rule, it’s just the way it is, and it IS how the law is applied.

              The PD can’t require ANY club to register. But if THEY create a club, it’s THEIR club.

              Finally, thanks for liking the predicted outcomes in the Legal Insurrection piece–I wrote them. :-)

              –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

          2. “The Neighborhood Watch program in Sanford is run under the aegis of the Sanford Police Department.”

            Then I would never involve myself with it in the first place.

  4. Could one face any penalty harsher than expulsion from the Watch group for violating this request, though?

    One could go with “concealed means concealed.” Of course, I try not to associated with businesses or institutions that don’t want me around. The downside is that ejecting all the people with CCW permits likely also means ejecting most of the people with actual security related backgrounds, respect for self-reliance, etc.

    I see the “watch” rapidly devolving into a bunch of officious busy bodies looking out for HOA violations. Troubled urban youths casing houses? Not a problem. Muave paint on that deck in violation of HOA regulation!?!?! $100/day until it is fixed!

    1. From what I read, the extent of it is that you can’t be a member if you aren’t following their ban. So, yes, it’s basically a way to force CCW holders out of the organizations if they won’t give up carrying guns for their own personal protection. I suspect you are right when it comes to the new direction of the organization.

  5. I’m lost here (not that unusual) WHERE in 790.33 is the “exclusion” for ANY police department??

    In this case it would be a “city ordinance” no?

  6. “The new rules, to be released at a community meeting on November 5 in Sanford, Florida, will state explicitly that residents acting under the authority of neighborhood watch may not carry a firearm or pursue someone they deem suspicious.”

    Other than the fact that Zimmerman did patrol for his Neighborhood Watch ™ on occasion, none of the above had anything to do with the Zimmerman case… unless you are of the mindset of an authoritarian thug who finds a nut shooting up a school in Connecticut is your reichstag to arrest bums from sleeping on park benches in Houston or a nut shooting up a theater in Colorado is your reichstag to banning rifles in North Carolina, etc.

    That being said, I took part in Neighborhood Watch ™ ~15 years ago and carrying while pulling your shift or taking active intervention was, by boilerplate guidelines, strongly discouraged – not sure if they are trying to reinforce those rules in Sanford or banning concealed carry permit holders from taking part… so off to Legal Insurrection I go.

  7. Didn’t the Martins sue the development because their Neighborhood Watch person killed Trayvon? I seem to recall the Martin’s got some sort of settlement out of that.

      1. If I was on the HOA there would be no way in hell I’d pay! Trayvon was shown to be a thug and they deserve no settlement, furthermore, how is the HOA liable for what one of their neighborhood watch people does while OFF duty [if I remember right]
        I’d much rather pay a lawyer then a settlement to these liars.

        Also- why wasn’t there a mass protest by the pro gun people in the council chambers when they voted on this stuff? was it a closed meeting and they just decided?
        Neighborhood watch people, much like the police need to be able to protect themselves, I would stop participating in the official watch program.

        1. The HOA doesn’t get to decide whether to settle or fight the suit–their insurance company has that right, solely. Unless, of course, the HOA wants to forgo the insurance coverage, in which case they can defend or settle as they like. But if they wish the insurance company’s coverage, they have to abide by the rules of their insurance policy–which, I am willing to bet good money, state that the insurance company determines how and whether to defend or settle suits for which they have liability.

          –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

  8. I still don’t see how there can be any penalties for violating this request other than ejection from the watch.

    FL doesn’t have open carry, so firearms must be concealed. If you go for a bit deeper than normal concealment I see no reason why you couldn’t carry; who would find out?

    This seems like a feel good PR move that doesn’t actually impact anyone who wants to carry on shift, other than making them feel unwelcome (as I discuss above). It is like a sign on a business that says, “We’d prefer to not have you carry in here, but this sign is not legally binding.”

  9. Meh. I can’t say I blame them. These groups don’t need another wanna-be cop

    1. Yes, clearly more home invasions, robberies, and random beatings on the streets of residential neighborhoods are a preferable policy choice.


      1. Actually, I think neighborhood watch groups are pretty ineffective anyways. and I don’t think whether folks in the group are armed or not will make a difference.


          “In the majority of evaluations, Neighborhood Watch was associated with a reduction in crime and therefore appeared to be effective.”

          Having a visible security deterrent is effective. That is why companies have guards or nightwatchmen. Even unarmed ones are valuable.

          If a ban on concealed carry reduces the number or quality of volunteers, that would then impact the program, which should predictably have some impact (likely negative) on public safety.

      2. Here in Lancaster, the “neighborhood watch” people also patrol the city by tapping into the city’s camera system. There is a camera on every street corner in the name of “public safety.” Do I really trust them any more than a government official having that capability?

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