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Backyard gun range ban finds new life

Published Apr. 23, 2015

After a House committee in March killed a bill to limit shooting rights on residential property, the full House revived it Thursday by tacking it onto another piece of legislation.

The original bill was filed by Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, after a local man started constructing a gun range in his yard, much to the dismay of his neighbors.

Currently, it's legal in Florida to shoot a gun on residential property unless it's done "recklessly or negligently." Gun rights activists have said this is sufficient to cover any dangerous gun activity.

Despite loud opposition from the National Rifle Association, the amendment, sponsored by Rep. Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, passed easily Thursday in the House.

In debate, Rouson said he was thankful the ban on what have been called backyard gun ranges could possibly be passed into law.

"This bill will take care of those types of situations," he said. "It's about public safety, and I'm so grateful that the NRA and Police Chiefs Association have worked together to make this a good product."

The amendment makes shooting in residential areas — including for target practice or in celebration — is a first-degree misdemeanor unless it's for defense or "does not pose a reasonably foreseeable risk to life, safety or property."

But even that language required bringing people together who had taken opposing stands in the original committee hearing in March. Among them, Marion Hammer, the NRA's lobbyist in Tallahassee, whose big personality Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, referred to on the floor.

"(Trumbull) did something in this session we thought would never ever get done," Pilon said, "in bringing all the stakeholders together, especially one lady we all know."