The Armed Fisherman most likely legally carries under Florida law. Here’s how it works.
Who is the Armed Fisherman?
The Armed Fisherman, who also goes by the handle Solo Yaker, is a YouTuber who open carries a rifle while fishing throughout Florida. He doesn’t seem to consider himself an auditor, but his videos are similar to those posted by First Amendment auditors.
The Armed Fisherman openly carries a gun while fishing along public beaches, parks, bridges, and other areas. He often parks some distance from where he fishes and openly carries his firearms while walking through public areas along the way.
In most of his videos, a concerned citizen calls the police or police see him with a gun. Many videos result in a confrontation with the police. The Armed Fisherman asserts his rights to not answer questions or produce identification if the police can’t articulate a crime he’s suspected of. The officers often assert that they need to know why he’s carrying a gun and usually back down after calling someone who understands the law.
What point is the Armed Fisherman trying to prove?
The Armed Fisherman wants to educate people about open carry rights under Florida Statute 790.25(3)(h). This law provides that
(3) LAWFUL USES… it is lawful for the following persons to own, possess, and lawfully use firearms and other weapons, ammunition, and supplies for lawful purposes:
(h) A person engaged in fishing, camping, or lawful hunting or going to or returning from a fishing, camping, or lawful hunting expedition;
Note that Florida generally does not allow open carry except as provided for in this statute. Other lawful reasons for open carry include police officers engaged in their duties or lawfully firing weapons for practice or sport.
Is it really legal to openly carry a firearm in a crowded public beach or park while fishing?
The above statute seems to allow openly carrying a firearm in a public area no matter how many people are around as long as you are fishing. It doesn’t matter whether people are reasonably alarmed by the presence of someone with a gun.
Multiple police agencies seem to think that the Armed Fisherman is abusing the law and it is intended to apply in isolated areas where fishermen may be at risk of harm from snakes, alligators, or panthers. However, no police agency, or the State Attorneys they have on call, have ever suggested a violation of a law other than Florida’s open carry law.
Some officers have suggested that the Armed Fisherman isn’t actually engaged in fishing. The argument is that his fishing equipment is just for show and that he’s really trying to make money off of his videos. In most places in Florida, it would be very difficult to find a jury that would unanimously find beyond a reasonable doubt that he wasn’t fishing. Since this is such a unique issue, there are also no previous court cases that define whether someone in a similar situation is engaged in fishing or unreasonably exploiting a loophole.
Has the Armed Fisherman been arrested?
The Armed Fisherman has been both detained and arrested by police in several locations. Each time, he has been released without charges or had the charges dropped.
Why do the police detain or arrest the Armed Fisherman?
The police typically get a 911 call that a man has a gun. The call often doesn’t have the information that he’s fishing or even if he does, this isn’t a situation citizens, dispatchers, or most officers are familiar with.
The police also need to make sure the public is safe. Officer should be dispatched to investigate, and they are allowed to ask questions.
However, police need a reasonable articulable suspicion to detain someone or force them to provide identification. Officers who escalate beyond friendly questions don’t understand the law about open carrying while fishing. Seeing a gun is not a reasonable suspicion because a gun can be used for lawful purposes.
A reasonable suspicion is something that suggests criminal activity. Since there is no criminal activity, this is why the officers eventually have to release the Armed Fisherman.
Are police trying to intimidate the Armed Fisherman?
It’s certainly possible that some of the aggressive responses from police officers are designed to intimidate the Armed Fisherman into not exercising his right to open carry while fishing. Officers frequently tell him he shouldn’t be doing it even if it’s technically legal.
The problem he has is that officers aren’t actually held to knowing the law. He has no real recourse except getting any charges dropped unless he can prove that they’re knowingly violating his rights.
What should you do if you see the Armed Fisherman?
If you see the Armed Fisherman, his videos show that he’s usually wiling to talk to people about the law and why he’s doing what he’s doing.
If you do decide to call law enforcement, be sure to thoroughly describe what he’s doing and that you’re familiar with his YouTube activities. Don’t make a false report or cause police to believe there’s a more serious situation by not giving enough details.
What if you disagree with what the Armed Fisherman is doing?
If you disagree with what the Armed Fisherman is doing, contact your state representative or senator. Open carry is not an absolute right under the Second Amendment, and open carry while fishing is only allowed because of a specific law. You may want to suggest repealing that law or modifying it to exclude crowded areas.