|Erik Davis Harp|
According to court documents, Harp did not get very far at the courthouse when he was arrested in mid March. Here is part of an affidavit from the arresting officer: (See full document at the end of this post.)
On March 15, 2016, at approximately 0930 am, the suspect in this case, Erik D. Harp, did possess a firearm and ammunition in a concealed manner while entering the Bay County Courthouse X-ray screening area. Affiant states that the suspect, Harp, stated he did not have a lawful concealed carry permit for the State of Florida or any reciprocal state.This tells us that Erik Harp's gun was loaded, or he possessed ammunition to load it. In other words, officers' ability to detect the weapon at the screening area might have prevented a nightmarish scene.
Ironically, the officer's affidavit seems to downplay the seriousness of the offense. Our research indicates it was irrelevant that Harp did not have a permit. Florida Statute 790.06(12)(a) states:
(12)(a) A license issued under this section does not authorize any person to openly carry a handgun or carry a concealed weapon or firearm into:
1. Any place of nuisance as defined in s. 823.05;
2. Any police, sheriff, or highway patrol station;
3. Any detention facility, prison, or jail;
4. Any courthouse;
Even with a permit, Erik Harp could not lawfully carry a firearm into a courthouse. So why isn't he being charged with a violation of 790.06(12)(a)?
Here is the kind of irony that can happen with the law in a gun-crazy state (in the South, Midwest, Great Plains, or elsewhere.) A rational citizen might say, "Trying to carry a concealed handgun and ammunition into a courthouse seems like a much more serious offense than carrying a concealed weapon, without a permit, in a regular public place--say, a park or a grocery store."
|Bay County (Florida) Courthouse|
In contrast, carrying a concealed weapon without a permit is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000.
Under Florida law, which appears to be goofy, Harp is being charged with the more serious of two offenses. But it seems clear that he also violated state law that prohibits taking a gun into a courthouse, with or without a permit.
In fact, it seems prosecutors are trying to take the courthouse element out of the equation. It's as if Harp was caught with a concealed weapon while walking down a sidewalk. But that is not what happened, and public records suggest Harp was planning actions that could have resulted in multiple fatalities.
Is Erik Davis Harp being undercharged in this case? If so, why?