ST. PETERSBURG — Joseph Carannante didn't expect to go viral.
But in less than a week, his plans to build a backyard gun range out of sand and pallets behind his father's house in Lakewood Estates earned him a couple turns on the wheel of the 24-hour news cycle.
Not to mention the ire of his neighbors and stern warnings from police and Mayor Rick Kriseman.
"I've gotten death threats out of this. People threatening to 'SWAT' my house, blowing it up with a bazooka," said Carannante, 21. "It's been kind of scary. Sleeping with one eye open."
So when WHPT-FM 102.5 The Bone's Mike Calta called Carannante with an offer Wednesday morning to dismantle his range in exchange for a year's membership in a Tampa gun range, he accepted.
"I can sleep well tonight. Haven't slept well in about four days," said Carannante, who works for UPS loading packages.
But he's not closing the door on backyard plunking forever.
"I believe I've made the right and safe decision — for now. We'll see where it goes from there," Carannante said.
At issue is a vague state law that allows backyard ranges as long as they're not used in a reckless or negligent way. The city planned to prosecute Carannante if he fired a shot, arguing that discharging a firearm in a densely populated residential neighborhood was the definition of recklessness.
Carannante disagrees. He says he researched the issue and planned to shoot responsibly. He knocked on neighbors' doors near his house at 2350 Granada Circle W to alert them of his plan. Some of them, he said, were fine with the idea.
"I wasn't trying to hide anything," he said matter-of-factly, his hands crossed just above his holstered, neon-green Springfield XD-S 9mm pistol.
But he admits that many other neighbors weren't so keen on his project.
"I wish they would have come to me instead of calling the media so they could shove a camera in my face," Carannante said.
Gun safety experts say Carannante should keep his shooting inside a regulated environment.
"He made a very mature decision," said Bruce Kitzis, general manager of Shooters World in Tampa. "What he was doing wasn't acceptable for the safety of his neighbors."
Shooters World gave Carannante a year's membership worth about $500. IHospital, a business that fixes Apple products, also purchased him a membership at Shoot Straight, a Clearwater gun range.
St. Petersburg police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez said that the city is happy that Carannante decided to do his shooting at a gun range.
Officials aren't too concerned about other residents deciding that dumping a pile of sand and corralling some pallets might pay off with gun range memberships.
"Most people understand it's not a good idea," she said.
Neighbor Patrick Leary said the neighborhood was relieved that Carannante planned to tear down his range, but they planned to continue the fight to change a state law, which allows such ranges.
"We dodged a bullet — literally. The rest of the state hasn't," Leary said, who has started an online petition to overturn the law.
Contact Charlie Frago at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow @CharlieFrago