Old-fart Floridians have found a new way to keep the damn kids off their lawn: Start a shooting range on it. It's totally legal, thanks to a little-known 1987 law that's recently been rediscovered by Beretta-toting bubbas.
Thank 57-year-old snowbird Doug Varrieur, who was looking for a way to teach his eyesight-impaired wife how to shoot her self-defense pistol without the inconvenience of going to a commercial gun range, "which is 50 miles round trip, costs $45 an hour and is enclosed in a building with people shooting around you that you don't know," he told the Miami Herald.
So, without any hint of irony, he did the next best thing: He started shooting at cans and zombie cutouts right outside the door of his RV, around people he didn't know. He can do this because a state law prevents local municipalities from banning the discharge of firearms in residential neighborhoods:
"I honestly had hoped no one would catch wind of it and it would become public knowledge," Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said of the state law that pre-empts local ordinances. "I'm concerned now that people know. This isn't about the right to own and bear arms. My concern is public safety and quality of life."
Ramsay is not the only one who is worried. Since word got out about the legality of Varrieur's "Gun Day" — he shoots from 3 to 4 p.m. every Wednesday — citizens and lawmakers up and down the island chain have become concerned that gun owners less responsible than Varrieur will begin shooting in their own yards.
"Without any oversight, somebody's neighbor could set up a gun range and invite his friends over and have a good old time shooting," said longtime Monroe County Commissioner George Neugent. "That's a little scary situation, and I say that as a gun owner and somebody who believes in the Second Amendment."
The law says folks can fire anything they want on their own property, no matter how small the plot of land, as long as they're not "reckless" or "negligent"—terms that cops admit they're unsure how to interpret. And the first violation would be a misdemeanor anyway, meaning a police officer can't arrest an offender unless he witnesses the offense with his own eyes.
As the Herald's Cammy Clark notes, gun-totin' gadflies are getting hip to the opportunity—and not always for gun-related reasons:
If people want to shoot on private property next to a daycare center, they can. Just last month, Ernie Vasiliou threatened to put a private gun range on a one-acre lot on Ranches Road west of Boynton Beach if a proposed daycare center were approved on land next to his. Vasiliou said noisy kids would ruin his dream-home plans.
When Monroe County commissioners asked whether noise ordinances could be invoked to stop shooting at private homes, County Attorney Bob Shillinger said no.
"And if they want to shoot a fully automatic weapon, and have a class 3 license, technically they would not be in violation of anything," Ramsay said.
Sure sure, but what's the harm?
A month ago, on Christmas Day, a grandfather in Volusia County was working in his back yard when he was hit in the chest by an errant bullet fired from a neighbor's yard. Bruce Fleming, 69, died less than an hour later at a local hospital.
No arrest has been made in the case while investigators await forensic evidence. According to the Daytona Beach News Journal, the shooter has been identified. He admitted to firing a shotgun but said he did not know the bullets had hit anyone. The shots were fired from a nearby property with a horse stable.
Ironically, this situation was set up by "small government" conservatives who wanted to ensure that actual small governments—you kn0w, local ones—couldn't regulate gun ranges within their boundaries:
Many municipalities in Florida used to have local laws banning the firing of guns in residential areas. While the preemptive state law has been in place for almost three decades, many local governments ignored it and passed their own gun ordinances.
But in 2011, backed by the National Rifle Association, the Republican-led state Legislature put more teeth into the state law, creating penalties for local lawmakers who violate it. Gov. Rick Scott signed the law that now makes anyone who creates or upholds local gun ordinances subject to fines of up to $5,000. They also can be removed from office and forced to pay their own legal bills if sued over local gun ordinances.
Even some Republican lawmakers think that's bunk. State Rep. Holly Raschein told the Herald that, even though she considers herself a friend to gun owners, the range rule "shocked" her. "I almost didn't believe it at first... I'm originally from Alaska, and we're no strangers to guns up there. But even in Anchorage, that's not allowed."
Welcome to free Florida! If you don't like it, you can move in with the rest of those big-government fascists in DENALI.