Guns for fun: Florida law lets homeowners build gun ranges

A couple of gun-owning guys up on Big Pine Key, about 30 miles up the Keys from Key West, must have figured it was too far to drive to the mainland to do some weapons practice. They built their own shooting range smack in the middle of the Eden Pines subdivision.

One a week for an hour, they load up for some target practice. They’ve been doing this for a month or so. And, there’s nothing the neighbors, law enforcement or local government can do.

There was a time when Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law appeared to be the poster child for the National Rifle Association and second amendment fans. That was before Florida took over all regulation of firearms — that’s all, folks, not most — and specifically prohibited local governments from even having, much less enforcing, local ordinances.

State statute 790.33 gives ironclad power to the Florida legislature to control firearms. Section 790.15 specially says one can’t fire away on or over public property or rights-of-way. What none of the state laws says is this: You can’t discharge firearms on private property or within the city limits.

Therefore, the guys in Eden Pines are well within their state rights to set up a bit of target practice in the neighborhood as long as they aren’t “reckless” and don’t infringe on anyone else’s private property.

The law that lets you shoot on private property has been around for decades, but it wasn’t until a couple years ago that the legislature took away all local power — and ended any chance for municipalities to regulate the discharge of firearms within their borders.

I’ll give the shooters this much. They’ve built their firing range with care and an eye toward safety — and staying strictly inside the Florida laws. The shooting range owner is a retired sheriff’s deputy. He and his shooting buddies do all kinds of nice things like checking the canal and surrounding homes to make sure no one’s around — complete with this quote from The Citizen last week: “The canal is clear and the range is hot.”

They¬† alert the sheriff’s office when they’re headed to the range and say they try to pick times when most folks are away at work. They defend themselves explaining they’re really good guys who don’t want to upset the neighbors.

Me thinks thou dost protest too much.

Just because the Florida legislature grabbed total control of firearms, just because there are loopholes around which one can dance, doesn’t mean building a shooting range in your backyard is either smart or right.

Time to put an end to this latest Florida craziness. Change the law, give municipalities back the right to regulate firearms’ discharge within their borders. Or the next thing we know, there’s going to be target practice in Old Town.


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