Numerous media outlets are reporting that Florida has banned “backyard gun ranges.” However, for the most part, it is still legal to discharge a firearm on residential property.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a measure (SB 130) Wednesday, February 24, 2016, that “bans” backyard gun ranges in Florida – sort of, but not really. Actually the bill clarifies existing legislation to note that you can discharge a firearm on residential property, so long as it does not pose a reasonably foreseeable risk to life, safety, or property, or is in self-defense, or is an accidental discharge.
The one-page bill, SB 130, prohibits the recreational discharge of a firearm in certain residential areas, specifically in areas “that the person knows or reasonably should know is primarily residential in nature and that has a residential density of one or more dwelling units per acre.” However, there are several exceptions:
Any person who recreationally discharges a firearm outdoors, including target shooting, in an area that the person knows or reasonably should know is primarily residential in nature and that has a residential density of one or more dwelling units per acre, commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.This subsection DOES NOT APPLY:(a) To a person lawfully defending life or property or performing official duties requiring the discharge of a firearm;(b) If, under the circumstances, the discharge does not pose a reasonably foreseeable risk to life, safety, or property; or(c) To a person who accidentally discharges a firearm.
Prior to SB 130, per Florida Statute 790.15 (2015), it was legal to discharge a firearm on private property so long as it is done in a safe manner (not recklessly or negligently) and so long as the firearm was not discharged on or over a paved public road, public space, public right-of-way or any occupied premises. The new law is actually very similar to the original law, essentially saying it is legal to discharge a firearm on residential property as long as it is not reckless or negligent (older language), or more specifically, if “the discharge does not pose a reasonably foreseeable risk to life, safety, or property,” per the new language. Most people doing target practice on “residential” property use appropriate backstops and safety precautions already, or they would’ve likely been cited under prior law, or will be cited under current law.
SB 130 was supported by the Florida Police Chiefs Association, the National Rifle Association and the Unified Sportsmen of Florida.
Under Florida law (790.053), it is currently a misdemeanor to open carry a firearm other than the exceptions listed in F.S. 790.25 (e.g. during target practice under safe conditions and in a safe place not prohibited by law or going to or from such place, or when going to, or returning from, or when engaged in fishing, camping, or lawful hunting). It is a felony (790.06) to carry a concealed firearm or weapon without a license. Statute 790.06 also limits who may qualify for a concealed carry license and the place and manner in which a weapon may be legally carried.
Open carry of firearms is currently legal in 45 states (Texas recently legalized licensed open carry). It was legal in Florida before 1987 when then State Attorney Janet Reno pushed for the ban during a special legislative session and Republican Governor Bob Martinez signed the ban into law.
**DISCLAIMER: This is just my understanding of the recently passed legislation, and not meant to be considered legal advice. If in doubt consult a lawyer, and as always, verify everything you read on the internet.