A man who may have nearly shot off his wang in a Flanigan's bar bathroom in Surfside allegedly tried to justify carrying his pistol without a license by citing Florida's new, soon-to-be-implemented, permitless carry law.
A few hours after the April 30 incident at Flanigan's Seafood Bar and Grill, Surfside police officers interviewed the man, who had left the restaurant after his gun went off, according to a police report obtained by New Times. He came to the Surfside police station, where he told police that "he had an accidental discharge" in the bathroom from a pistol he keeps on his waist, the report states.
When asked if he had a license to carry a concealed weapon, he said he "took the safety course but did not have time to apply" for the license, according to the report. He believed that the new gun legislation signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis in April had already taken effect and that he was therefore allowed to tote his gun in public without a permit, the report states.
The legislation, HB 543, actually goes into effect in two months, on July 1. It will end the requirement for people to take a firearms training course and undergo a background check before carrying concealed guns around town.
The Flanigan's bathroom blunder is the most recent of several incidents over the past six months in which a firearm was allegedly shot by accident around Miami-area restaurants.
In late February, an off-duty Miami-Dade police officer's gun went off while he was dining at Sushi Maki in Coral Gables. He was hit in the leg by his bullet and transported to the hospital. A person's chair was struck at the man's table, but the bystander was unharmed.
In November of 2022, a U.S. Homeland Security agent accidentally shot himself and his friend at a wine-tasting event in Nahuean Gourmet Market in Doral. Police said the agent got up from the table when his gun fell to the floor and went off, striking him and his friend in their legs.
Gun-safety advocates fear accidental discharges in public will occur more frequently with the implementation of permitless carry (referred to as "constitutional carry" by gun rights groups). If law enforcement professionals are mistakenly blasting rounds off, it's safe to assume untrained, unlicensed individuals will as well, advocates argue.
"Take away the background checks and the firearm training, and you've got some real challenges ahead," Patricia Brigham of Prevent Gun Violence Florida tells New Times. "You're going to have people walking around with concealed handguns who have no business doing so. This is a danger to the public."
When he signed the legislation on April 3, DeSantis' office released a statement saying the new law "strengthens Floridians' Second Amendment rights by allowing Floridians to carry concealed weapons without a government-issued permit."
"Constitutional carry is in the books," the governor announced.
While federal law already requires licensed gun sellers to perform background checks on buyers, people who purchase firearms through private sales are not required to undergo the background check process. Now that Florida has implemented permitless carry, those individuals can carry concealed guns in public without undergoing safety courses or background checks.
Private businesses can bar patrons from carrying firearms on their premises. But because of a strict preemption law that gives the State of Florida dominion over gun regulation, local governments in the state have no power to pass ordinances restricting where people can carry firearms.
In the aftermath of the Flanigan's incident, Surfside police emailed a statement to the community assuring residents that all is safe and sound in the sleepy seaside town.
"We want to emphasize that there is no danger to the community, and we take incidents like this very seriously," the department said. "We encourage everyone to prioritize safety and responsible gun ownership to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future."
Police found a bullet from a 380 ACP Taurus gun on the floor of the Flanigan's bathroom. Nearby was a bullet hole inside a stall "towards the east side in a downward trajectory," Surfside police say.
The man who accidentally discharged the gun, identified in the report as a 34-year-old Miami Beach resident, was arrested and booked on a felony charge of carrying a concealed firearm without a permit. He was captured on camera leaving the restroom with his son, who was covering his ears as if he had heard a loud sound, according to the police report.
Officers identified the man by obtaining his dinner table receipt from the restaurant.
Police noted that a witness was in the bathroom in another stall when the pistol allegedly went off. The witness, who was on vacation from Puerto Rico, reported frantically running off when he heard the gunfire. Though the witness claimed he heard an argument before the gunfire, the police report does not indicate the firing was intentional.
A waitress who worked next door to Flanigan's at an Italian restaurant tells New Times she and her co-workers didn't hear the gunshot but saw the ensuing commotion. "We were all working, and we just saw a bunch of cop cars rushing over here," she says.
The waitress says she was surprised that someone was walking around with a loaded gun inside the restaurant next door, especially in light of the disputes, fights, and other commotion in the vicinity in the past.
"I do not think it's normal for people to be carrying guns around in restaurants," she says.
The owner of another business next door to Flanigan's was shocked to hear that a gun went off a few feet away from her workplace. When reached by phone, however, she maintained, "I believe in the right to bear arms."
Correction published 5/4/2023 11:55 a.m.: The original version of this article classified an April 25 incident at Dadeland Mall as an accidental shooting on the basis of a preliminary review of the case file by the Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD).
MDPD subsequently provided an incident report stating that while en route to the hospital, the injured man made comments indicating that his gunshot wound was intentionally self-inflicted.
The version of the article above removes the incident from the rundown of accidental shootings.