Residents wary of shooting range

By Steve Estes

Residents in Big Pine’s Eden Pines Subdivision are acting more wary these days as they traverse the canal system that serpentines through the subdivision.

Neighbors are a little bit upset that one of their other neighbors has established a personal shooting range on an empty lot next to their home.

And they feel uncomfortable that the targets for that range face the canal, a canal that many residents use on a nearly daily basis.

And while the situation may not be the safest, nestled as it is in a relatively densely populated subdivision, there is nothing actually illegal about it, according to Sheriff Rick Ramsay.

On Wednesday’s US 1 Radio Morning Magazine show, Ramsay said that his officers had tried to get voluntary cooperation from the property owner, but have thus far been rebuffed.

“Our hands are tied,” he said.

The Florida Legislature, during the years when right-wing ultra-conservatives were trying to convince the nation that the Democratic regime in the White House would soon be coming to take away all guns, passed its own legislation that forbids local governments, be they county or municipal, from putting anything in place that supersedes state law in regard to gun control.

According to Florida statutes, residents are allowed to discharge firearms on their own property without interference as long as the projectile doesn’t leave the shooter’s property.

That new regulation nullified a county ordinance that prohibits the discharge of firearms in the county limits except at established gun ranges.

“We understand that this is a dangerous situation (outdoor range in a residential district),” said Ramsay. “I would tell the neighbors that they should pay attention to where their kids are. I wouldn’t want your kids roaming around outside if someone is shooting a lethal firearm,” said Ramsay.

He said that hopefully anyone who uses their property for a shooting range with live, lethal ammunition, would make sure that it’s done safely with side guards for errant left or right shots and a proper berm to stop bullets from getting loose on other properties.

“The problem is that the state law doesn’t outline rules for the proper berm size for the firearm being used, or even call for side guards for left-right shot control,” said Ramsay.

And the property in question uses neither, said Ramsay.

“An accidental discharge can always happen. We’ve seen accidental discharges from police officers who were well versed in gun safety. There’s always that possibility,” said Ramsay.

And with that possibility, he says, comes the possibility that a stray bullet goes into a home, or worse, into a person.

“We would have to file charges in that instance,” said Ramsay.

Those charges could range from anything to disorderly conduct to second degree manslaughter depending on where the stray bullet finally came to rest.

“We understand the neighbors are a little apprehensive,” said Ramsay.

He said that the sheriff’s department’s concern in thi matter has nothing to do with gun control.

“This is about public safety, and we don’t think this is the safest situation,” said Ramsay.

He said he was fairly certain that the Legislature’s intent wasn’t to allow homeowners to fire lethal weapons at will in residential districts with no ramifications.

“I understand a few bills have been introduced in the new session to provide some controls, but right now we have no way to stop this practice,” said Ramsay.

One neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said that others had talked to the subject property owner about the potential safety hazards involved with firing lethal weapons in a residential zone, and all had been rebuffed, most with diatribes concerning the Second Amendment protections.

The affected neighbor also said that they use the canal behind the shooting range often, and have no choice but to use that canal to access open water, but that they will delay trips or even postpone them if the firing is going on for fear that, “That one little thing could go wrong.”

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