backyard target shooting

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Anybody can just set up some targets in the yard and start popping caps. But is it legal?

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a column about confusion on Florida laws as they pertain to open carry, concealed carry, and carrying in your vehicle. I received a lot of feedback from that column and a few of you readers wanted me to help explain other laws and questions. The big two were recreational shooting on your own property and Florida’s castle doctrine.

First and foremost, I am not a lawyer — I don’t even play one on TV. What follows is not and should not be construed as legal advice. It’s just my understanding of our laws.

This week, we’ll do the recreational shooting on your property. And here is the statute, FAC 790.15:

Discharging firearm in public or on residential property.—

(1) Except as provided in subsection (2) or subsection (3), 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, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083. This section does not apply to a person lawfully defending life or property or performing official duties requiring the discharge of a firearm or to a person discharging a firearm on public roads or properties expressly approved for hunting by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission or Florida Forest Service.

(2) Any occupant of any vehicle who knowingly and willfully discharges any firearm from the vehicle within 1,000 feet of any person commits a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

(3) Any driver or owner of any vehicle, whether or not the owner of the vehicle is occupying the vehicle, who knowingly directs any other person to discharge any firearm from the vehicle commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

(4) Any person who recreationally discharges a firearm outdoors, including target shooting, in an area that the person knows or reasonably should know is primarily residential in nature and that has a residential density of one or more dwelling units per acre, commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083. This subsection does not apply:

(a) To a person lawfully defending life or property or performing official duties requiring the discharge of a firearm;

(b) If, under the circumstances, the discharge does not pose a reasonably foreseeable risk to life, safety, or property; or


(c) To a person who accidentally discharges a firearm.

If we break this down the first paragraph says that shooting outdoors is illegal, except if you are legally protecting yourself, legally hunting, performing official duties requiring the discharge of a weapon (law enforcement), or if recreationally shooting on your property and your immediate area has a population density of less than one house per acre.

Sections 2 and 3 are essentially covering drive-by shootings. Section 4 is where the one house per acre population density is defined.

Now, city laws and ordinances will, of course, overrule these. For example, you can’t shoot a firearm recreationally within the city limits of Punta Gorda. However, if you live outside of the city limits and have a population density of less than one house per acre, you can shoot recreationally on your property. Downtown Punta Gorda, no; Ranchettes, OK.

But that is the legal side. The other side is the responsibility side. Every bullet you fire has an attorney’s name on it. So you need to ensure that the rounds you fire stay on your property and out of other people or their property.

That means you need a proper backstop for your shooting, and it needs to be tall enough to ensure you’re not firing over it. That’s nothing a few dump trucks of clean fill won’t fix. Stay away from dirt with lots of rock in it. Rocks make ricochets.

Noise ordinances are also another thing to consider. Make sure you aren’t violating any noise laws. Remember, the people of Punta Gorda complained about the noise people playing pickleball were making, I’m pretty sure gunshots will go over like a fart in church. Some people have nothing better to do than complain. Even at the private range I use, I don’t start shooting until 10 a.m. and stop at 5 p.m.

And it probably wouldn’t hurt to check with your neighbors and see if they have a problem with it. You may even find a new shooting buddy or two.

Capt. Cayle Wills is a USCCA-certified firearms instructor and gunsmith at Higher Power Outfitters (1826 Tamiami Trail, Punta Gorda). Contact him at 941-916-4538 or Cayle@HigherPowerOutfitters.com.

Capt. Cayle Wills is a USCCA-certified firearms instructor and gunsmith at Higher Power Outfitters (1826 Tamiami Trail, Punta Gorda). Contact him at 941-916-4538 or Cayle@HigherPowerOutfitters.com.

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