Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano says residents in St. Petersburg’s Lakewood Estates were horrified to discover one of their neighbors was planning a makeshift gun range in his backyard. Their horror only grew when they discovered it appeared to be legal, thanks to Florida lawmakers. Legislators passed a law in 1987 that declared state statutes superseded the laws of local municipalities when it comes to gun regulations.
A second law in 2011 authorized hefty penalties for violations. Local officials could be removed from office and face personal fines of up to $5,000 for passing gun regulations. As a result, if an amateur gun range does not involve shooting across paved roads or over an occupied premises, it’s perfectly legal as long as the shooter is not acting negligently or recklessly. The state didn’t define reckless or negligent, and that’s created a problem for law enforcement.