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Florida lawmakers take aim at backyard gun ranges

gun_range.jpg

FILE: Dec. 15, 2012: A target from a commercial gun range in Sarasota, Florida.REUTERS

South Florida lawmakers are taking aim at a state law that allows residents to have backyard shooting ranges.

Florida, a state with some of the least restrictive gun regulations in the country, passed the law in 2011 and attempted to keep local lawmakers from making changes by including the possibility of a $5,000 fine and being removed from office should anybody try.

However, Sunrise and other cities are concerned about the law not having clearly defined rules on safety.

Last week, the 4-member Sunrise City Commission passed a resolution urging the state to address statutes that allow “unrestricted and unregulated” ranges and the firing of a weapon in urban, residential neighborhoods.

The South Florida cities of Boynton Beach, Southwest Ranches and Hallandale Beach and Hollywood are considering similar measures, as reported by the Orlando Sentinel.

The law makes clear that backyard gun ranges are permissible as long as the gunfire is not negligent or reckless.

However, it doesn’t state the type of backstops that are required and which kinds of guns or ammunition are allowed. Nor does the law state hours of operation and how far they must be from such places as schools or playgrounds, says Sunrise Mayor Michael Ryan.

Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper told the newspaper she's willing to risk the fine and pay her own legal expenses, as stated in the law.

"It's gotten to the point of absurdity that things like this are taking place and we are handcuffed from regulating it," she said. "It's absurdity at the worst level."

Hollywood Commissioner Patricia Asseff wants the state to fix the law.

"I never heard of such a crazy thing," Asseff said. "If some bullet goes flying through the hedges, somebody could get killed. We're not the wild wild west here."

Ryan sent a letter a few weeks ago to Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, asking for guidance, and was reportedly told to wait on taking action because the issue is the subject of pending litigation and awaits an opinion from the state’s Attorney General's Office.

Ryan could not be reached Monday for comment.

And it remains unclear whether such ranges even exist.

State Rep. Katie Edwards, a Democrat, told the paper she is asking law enforcement officials if they even know of any ranges.

And the Boynton Beach mayor told the newspaper: This is the first I'm hearing of it.”