Law leaves few options to make backyard gun ranges safer

Bullet holes are in a home, thanks to backyard gun ranges. Neighbors are sick of people pulling the trigger near their homes and putting their lives at risk.

But, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office said there is not much it can do about it. It responded to around 600 calls of backyard shootings in Golden Gate Estates last year while almost 200 to date this year.

“The deputies who respond, it’s not that they don’t want to do something,” said Mike Williams, an attorney with CCSO. “It’s not that they don’t want to get involved or anything else.”

Bullet hole in a Golden Gate Estates home. (Credit: WINK News)
Bullet hole in a Golden Gate Estates home. (Credit: WINK News)

When it comes to backyard shooting in Golden Gate Estates, the CCSO said the law allows homeowners to shoot there as long as the person is not negligent or reckless.

If a deputy comes to the decision the shooter is negligent and reckless, he or she has to send a report to the state attorney’s office. Then, they decide if they want to issue a warrant for an arrest.

Local government cannot create an ordinance to regulate it and faces hefty penalties if it does.

“You will not find many governments or governmental agencies who are willing to risk sending one of their people to jail, elected representative to jail,” Williams said, “or costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars to try to pass an ordinance that wouldn’t survive anyway and no one wants to test it for that reason.”

The law makes things tricky for deputies. There are just no standards right now. That is why the county is working on getting something more concrete. Not to stop people from backyard shooting, but asking the state.

“Whether or not reasonable regulations can be brought in to establish standards for size shape and color of backyard ranges hour of operations,” Collier County Commissioner Bill McDaniel said.

While some voiced concerns about backyard shootings, others came to defend it.

“I’ve picked casings up on our properties and it’s not we don’t shoot,” said Nancy Smith, a Golden Gate Estates resident. “I’ve lost half of my hearing because it was so loud.”

“I want to make a point that some people may not like it to hear the gunshots and stuff,” said Joseph Demeo, a Golden Gate Estates resident. “Some of us have a big love for it and have invested a lot of money into it to doing it safely.”

Reporter:Hannah Vogel
Writer:Michael Mora
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