Florida: New Law Bans Backyard Gun Ranges

Florida homeowners can no longer set up backyard gun ranges under a bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.
The backyard range measure (SB 130) signed by Scott on Wednesday, February 24, 2016, prohibits the recreational discharge of a firearm outdoors, including for target shooting or celebratory shooting, in primarily residential areas with a density of one or more dwelling units per acre. A violation would be a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The law does specify that property owners can still fire a gun to protect themselves or their property.

A Senate staff analysis of the bill pointed to reports about people constructing gun ranges in their backyards, with neighbors being concerned for safety. Law enforcement officials complained that they were hamstrung because their lawyers found the state statute barring “recklessly or negligently” discharging a firearm to be “subjective and vague.”

Scott’s signature Wednesday comes nearly five years after the governor signed into law a measure that voided all local firearms restrictions.

The “backyard range” issue received heightened attention in June 2014 when the Comedy Channel’s “Colbert Report” did a satirical piece on a Big Pine Key resident who legally set up a makeshift side-yard shooting range using a state law, created in 1987, regarding shooting on private property.

The “backyard gun range” bill goes into effect immediately.

Scott also signed a bill (SB 228) that would change Florida’s 10-20-life law that now sets mandatory minimum sentences for crimes involving guns. The new law would give judges flexibility when sentencing people convicted of aggravated assault. Previously, a judge was forced to issue a 10-year sentence if someone displayed a gun and a 20-year sentence if someone fired a gun, including cases where a gun was fired as a warning and not at an individual.

This law goes into effect July 1 of this year.