PLEASE READ: The Collier County Sheriff’s Office cannot provide you with legal guidance, advice or make any recommendations in reference to this issue. If you have any questions regarding whether or not certain actions will be in violation of this law, and those are not answered below, you should consult your own attorney.
CAN I OPERATE A GUN RANGE IN MY BACKYARD?
Fla. Stat. § 790.15 states (in part)
“…any person who knowingly discharges a firearm in any public place or on the right-of-way of any paved public road, highway, or street, who knowingly discharges any firearm over the right-of-way of any paved public road, highway, or street or over any occupied premises, or who recklessly or negligently discharges a firearm outdoors on any property used primarily as the site of a dwelling as defined in s. 776.013 or zoned exclusively for residential use commits a misdemeanor of the first degree”
So the following actions are prohibited:
(1) Firing a gun over a paved public road
(2) Firing a gun over any occupied premises
(3) Firing a gun in public (maybe or maybe not the backyard)
(4) Firing a gun on your personal property either negligently or recklessly
In reference to #3, what is public? Does it include a backyard? In the case of C.C. v. State of Florida, the Fourth District Court of Appeal addressed this:
Appellant was arrested after discharging a revolver into the ground in his friend's fenced backyard. He was charged with possession of a firearm by a minor and discharging a firearm in a public place. We reverse the conviction for discharging a firearm in a public place, as it is clear that the backyard of one's home does not constitute a public place within the meaning of section 790.15(1), Florida Statutes (1995). See Fla. Std. Jury Instr. (Crim.) 102 (defining "public place" under statute as "any place intended or designed to be frequented or resorted to by the public"). So, at least one court would suggest that firing a gun in one’s own backyard is not a violation of this portion of the statute; however, other court may disagree if certain factors differ such as the degree to which the backyard is shielded from public view or access. A court may distinguish a backyard with no fence and abutting other houses in, for example, a gated community from a fenced in acre out in a rural area.
Concerning #4, firing a weapon in a private backyard could still be a violation of the law if it is done negligently or recklessly. Negligence is “the failure to exercise the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would have exercised in a similar situation”. Recklessness is “the creation of a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm to others and by a conscious disregard or indifference to that risk.” I don’t think the mere discharge of a firearm would be negligent; otherwise, the legislature wouldn’t have even used “negligent” or “reckless”… they would have merely made it illegal to discharge a firearm on a residential property (absent self defense).