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Bill Would Block Some Backyard Gun Ranges

Cammy Clark
Miami Herald
The bill was inspired, in part, by the backyard gun range set up by Doug Varrieur, which was close to homes and a busy canal.

  A bill making its way through the Florida Legislature would target backyard gun ranges, like the one on Big Pine Key that made national headlines in 2014. 

The bill, which has versions in both the state House of Representatives and the  Senate, would require at least an acre of land before you could set up a gun range. It was inspired, in part, by the backyard gun range set up by Doug Varrieur.

That range, which was close to homes and a busy canal, led to national media attention,  including a segment on the Colbert Report. Neighbors were furious and local officials appalled to learn that they could do nothing to stop the shooting under current Florida law.

Credit Bar Jack / Flickr
A new proposal for regulating backyard gun ranges is making its way through the Florida Legislature.

The homeowner has since dismantled the range.

Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said he considers himself a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and the right to own and use firearms — but not right next to someone else's house.

"Who would want their kids in the backyard playing when people are shooting guns 15 feet away?" Ramsay said. "Nobody."

Ramsay said the issue concerns both safety and quality of life.

"Right now the law says it could be 3 o'clock in the morning, you could be shooting a high-powered rifle within feet of your neighbors' homes," he said. "This isn't anti-gun. This is common sense. This is public safety. This is quality of life for all."

A similar bill last year failed to win approval from the Legislature. This year's versions have passed three committees each in the House and Senate.