WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — In Florida, it's illegal to openly carry a gun, unless under certain circumstances. A group of gun owners exercised that right on the Royal Park Bridge in West Palm Beach this past weekend and caused quite a scene. There's been so much feedback that the town of Palm Beach Police Department posted an explanation to community members.
The public announcement posted on the Town of Palm Beach Police Department's website read in part:
"The Palm Beach Police Department wants to advise our residents that we recently encountered a group of people on the Royal Park Bridge. There were approximately 8-10 individuals openly carrying firearms while appearing to fish from the side of the bridge.
Open carry is defined as the act or practice of carrying a firearm openly in public. Open carry when on foot in a public area is generally illegal, but is permitted in certain circumstances, as defined by Florida statute 790.25(3), open carry is permitted while hunting, fishing, camping, gun shows, or while target shooting at a gun range, and while going to and from such activities.
Palm Beach police officers understand the rights of legally-armed citizens and their Second Amendment rights. Most of these citizens are well-meaning people who simply want to exercise their rights under the law."
Michael Taylor was one of those citizens. There are two things he is equally passionate about; fishing and guns.
"I fish four to five days a week, so it's part of my life," said Taylor.
Taylor said a few years ago he was almost robbed while fishing under a bridge. Since then he brings his guns along.
"It's not for everybody. You kind of put yourself out there in the general view with a firearm," he said.
And that's what he and a group of gun owners did Saturday on the Royal Park Bridge, carrying American flags, flags supporting President Trump and the Second Amendment. A video of the group was posted on Facebook and people were quick to share their opinions. One person questioned if the gun owners exercising open carry were even fishing and another person said they didn't understand what the hazard is fishing off a bridge that a gun is needed.
When asked what he says when people say carrying a rifle and a gun is over the top or excessive, Taylor responded: "Right now we are in a state where there is a lot of gun legislation. A lot of gun laws that they are trying to pass where they are slowly trying to strip away rights from law-abiding citizens."
The town of Palm Beach Police Department's statement went on to say that officers know the law and encourage community members to have a good understanding of the law as these groups are "not going to go away."
Some said the sight of multiple guns out in the open on a bridge could be shocking at first, but they did not necessarily have a problem with it.
"I would be a little concerned at first, but if one thinks about it, it's a great ways to protect yourself in today's society," said Denisa Crisafulli who was cycling on the bridge with her young daughter.
Taylor said he understands how open carry can make someone uncomfortable, but reiterates it's his right.
"My rights are my rights and if you don't like my rights, it's the Constitution," he added.
You can open carry while fishing and hunting, but you still need a license to fish and hunt.