Why Florida deputies can't shut down most backyard shooting ranges

Bullets are flying near East Orange County homes, and deputies say there's little they can do about it.

Backyard shooting ranges are legal in Florida and are quite common in some areas. But not all neighbors enjoy the sound of gunshots so close by – or the idea that a stray bullet could come flying onto their property.

East Orange County resident Eric Higgins said he’s been doing his best to live with the sound of gunfire in his neighborhood from a backyard shooting range. He said it’s been going on for almost 20 years.

But he called deputies when a projectile pierced the siding of his home.

He said deputies told him the hole looks like it was caused by a pellet from a pellet gun, not a bullet. But he said it is still unnerving.

“You just want to be safe in your home," Higgins said.

Records show deputies have been here for reports of gunfire four times in the last two years.

"There are limits to backyard shooting ranges. The bullets can't cross property lines or roads, but violating that is only a first-degree misdemeanor, not the kind of charge that's going to get a lot of attention," Higgins said.

State law prohibits local regulation of backyard shooting ranges, and proving where a projectile came from is exceedingly difficult.

“To me, it's a big risk, and I don't want to take it," Higgins said.

State lawmakers recently revisited the law and prohibited shooting in dense residential areas. However, in more rural areas, backyard ranges are still legal provided they are run according to safety guidelines.

About the Author