IS IT LEGAL? Shooting firearms in your Florida backyard

Investigations

HUDSON, Fla. (WFLA) – After getting results for seniors fed up with a gun manufacturer and noisy outdoor gun range in Hudson, 8 On Your Side is investigating the law surrounding outdoor gun ranges in Florida.

According to Pasco County officials, the outdoor gun range was shut down for a zoning violation. That may not have been the case if the range was not tied to a business.  

As F.S. 790.33(1) explains, state law prohibits local governments from regulating the entire field of firearms and ammunition.  

Local officials could potentially be held personally liable if they enact firearms ordinances and regulations. 

However, as F.S. 790.33(4)(a) states, there is an exception for local government’s authority to regulate zoning ordinances for businesses.

“They can regulate for zoning purposes only for businesses but they can’t regulate just discharge of a firearm,” said Morgan & Morgan attorney Paul Fulmer. 

So when can you legally shoot firearms outdoors on residential property? The answer can be found in F.S 790.15, a 353 word law.

It states in part, that it is a misdemeanor to recreationally shoot outside, including target shooting, in an area that’s primarily residential and has one or more dwelling units per acre.

It sounds simple. If your home is surrounded by neighbors and you have one acre or less, recreational target practice is prohibited.

But according to F.S 790.15(4)(b), the subsection does not apply if the discharge does not pose a reasonably foreseeable risk to life, safety or property.

8 On Your Side asked Fulmer to define a reasonably foreseeable risk.

“So therein lies the problem,” he said. “That is a jury question.”

Fulmer said it is risky to shoot when you are on a lot that is one acre or less.

“You’re literally putting the interpretation of that law into the hands first of the law enforcement officer that comes out, then to the prosecutor,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office tells 8 On Your Side they advise residents to not shoot on a lot that is one acre or less.

But what if you live in a residential area with more than one acre of land?

Fulmer said the limitation there is that you cannot shoot recklessly or negligently.

Deputies will look at different factors when determining if you are guilty of a crime.

“He’s going to look at what type of weapon you’re shooting,” said Fulmer.

“Then he’s going to look at… what you’re doing. If someone is shooting into a retention pond or lake, no real problem there.”

8 On Your Side reached out to nearby counties to get the data on the number of reported incidents.  

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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