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[Cite as Sutton v. State, 12 Fla. 135
Simon Sutton, Appellant, vs. The
State of Florida.
1. The carrying arms on the person partially concealed is construed to
be a violation of law prohibiting the carrying of arms secretly. The statute
provides that arms shall be carried openly outside of all the clothes.
Appeal from Suwannee Circuit Court.
This case was decided at Tallahassee.
A statement of the case is contained in the opinion
of the Court.
John A. Warrock and A. A. Knight for
The appellant excepts to the charges of the Judge
in the court below, and insists that a weapon carried on the person so as to be
seen, does not come within the statute, "secretly." Thomp. Dig.,
That in this case the pistol was partly in the band of the pantaloons
and partly out, so that it could be seen by any and all, and therefore not
That the proviso means any pistol outside of all his clothes, so that
it may be distinguished. Ibid.
The Attorney-General for the State.
BAKER, J., delivered the opinion of the Court:
This is an appeal from the Circuit Court for
The defendant was indicted, tried and convicted for carrying arms
secretly, and fined twenty-five dollars.
The witness, Joseph Stewart, testified on the trial of the case that
he met the defendant on the road from Houstoun; passed close by him; saw the
butt of a pistol sticking out of his pants; sometimes his coat covered the
pistol, at other (p.136)times not; saw the
defendant on another occasion with the same pistol in his hand; knew it to be
the same; the defendant did not put it under his clothes but laid it on the
The court charged the jury that if they found at any time the pistol
was covered by the coat, or if it was stuck in his pants and a part of it
exposed, "that, under the statute, it was not carrying arms openly outside of
all the clothes."
The defendant's counsel excepted to the charge of the court, and
"insisted" that a "weapon carried on the person so as to be seen, does not come
within the statute "secretly;" 2d, that the proviso means "any part of the
pistol outside of all the clothes so that it may be distinguished."
The statute under which this indictment was found provides, "that
hereafter it shall not be lawful for any person in this State to carry arms of
any kind secretly on or about their person, &c.: Provided, that this
law shall not be so construed as to prevent any person from carrying arms openly
outside of all their clothes." Th. Dig., 498, §5.
The Legislature by which this act was passed evidently attached to
it more than usual importance, regarding the enforcement of its provisions as
necessary for the protection of human life, and for the preservation of the
peace and good order of the State. And to secure this desired end they made it
the "duty of the Judges of the Circuit Courts in this State, to give the matter
contained in this act in special charge to the Grand Juries in the several
counties in this State, at every session of the court." Thomp. Dig.,
The statute was not intended to infringe upon the rights of any
citizen to bear arms for the "common defense." It merely directs how they shall
be carried, and prevents individuals from carrying concealed weapons of a
dangerous and deadly character, on or about the person, for the purpose of
committing some malicious crime, or of taking some undue advantage over an
unsuspecting adversary. When (p.137)no such
evil intentions possess the mind, men in vexed assemblies or public meetings,
conscious of their advantage in possessing a secret and deadly weapon, often
become insulting and overbearing in their intercourse, provoking a retort or an
assault, which may be considered as an excuse for using the weapon, and a deadly
encounter results, which might be avoided where the parties stand on a perfect
equality, and where no undue advantage is taken.
We have seen that the Legislature, in view of the public policy
which called for the passage of this act, in the most emphatic manner, makes it
the duty of the Judges of the Circuit Courts in the State to use all their
legitimate powers for the purpose of having this law enforced in every locality
or county, strictly in accordance with its spirit and meaning, and in view of
the mischief it was intended to remedy.
It is urged by the counsel for appellant, that if any part of the
weapon can be seen, it is not carried secretly within the meaning of the
statute. If there could be any doubt about the proper construction to be given
to this part of the statute, it would be removed by the clear and explicit
language used in the proviso, which only authorizes arms to be carried openly
outside of all the clothes.
The carrying of weapons, therefore, about the person, in any other
manner, is illegal, and makes the party liable to the penalties imposed by the
In the case before us, the pistol was at all times partially
concealed by the pants, and sometimes entirely concealed by the coat, which
brings this case within the very letter of the statute.
The charge of the Judge in the Circuit Court was in accordance with
the law, almost in the exact language of the statute. The verdict of the jury is
fully sustained both by the law and the evidence.
The judgment is affirmed with costs.