Care to set up your own shooting range in the backyard?
Go right ahead, state law says.
That has local leaders in an uproar, with Sunrise Mayor Mike Ryan leading the charge.
On Tuesday, the Sunrise commission approved a resolution urging the state to allow cities to restrict gun use on private property.
Other South Florida cities say they are poised to follow suit, from Boynton Beach to Southwest Ranches and Hallandale Beach.
State law allows backyard gun ranges as long as the gunfire is not negligent or reckless. But the law doesn't say what kind of backstop must be used, nor does it restrict the type of firearm and ammunition, the time of day or how far the makeshift range should be from schools, day-care centers or playgrounds, Ryan says.
Ryan would like to set up restrictions for Sunrise, but elected officials who enact local gun laws in Florida can be removed from office without a hearing, face $5,000 fines, and could be forced to pay their own legal fees if anyone sues to overturn the local ordinance.
Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper says she's willing to risk the $5,000 fine.
"It's gotten to the point of absurdity that things like this are taking place and we are handcuffed from regulating it," Cooper said. "It's absurdity at the worst level."
Hollywood Commissioner Patricia Asseff wants the state to fix the law.
"I never heard of such a crazy thing," Asseff said. "If some bullet goes flying through the hedges, somebody could get killed. We're not the wild wild west here."
In late January, Ryan sent letters to Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi asking for guidance on what action he could take to put restrictions in place without risking removal from office.
"This matter is the subject of pending litigation and is awaiting an opinion from the Attorney General's Office," Deputy Press Secretary John Tupps said Thursday.
This week, the governor's general counsel advised Ryan to await the outcome of Palm Beach County lawsuit challenging the law passed in 2011 that allows the governor to remove local officials from office for enacting local gun laws. Broward County later joined the suit.
State Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, says she is reaching out to law enforcement officials to see if they have examples of backyard gun ranges.
"I have a concern about the next-door neighbor who hears a gun go off and calls law enforcement, and they have to go out because someone is using a gun in their back yard," she said.
Boynton Beach Mayor Jerry Taylor was alarmed to hear gun owners can set up target practice in their own yards.
"This is the first I'm hearing of it," he said. "That should be regulated."
Sunrise resident Bernie Shaw says only a fool would set up a shooting range in a densely populated area.
"I don't think anyone who lives in Sunrise is that stupid to set up a gun range in their backyard," Shaw said.
But some local leaders worry backyard shooting ranges might start popping up in residential areas.
"It's frightening," said Southwest Ranches Mayor Jeff Nelson. "I don't want to be fined $5,000 if I'm trying to address this. It's crazy."
Fort Lauderdale resident Russ Rector said he doesn't want to set up target practice in his yard, but he's worried some gun owners might.
"As long as you don't shoot over a street or another residence, it's legal, and that's just crazy," Rector said.
Ryan said he has sent the Sunrise resolution to the Broward League of Cities, Florida League of Cities and cities throughout Broward in hopes they will take up the cause.
Pembroke Pines Commissioner Angelo Castillo says he's asked city staff to come up with recommendations to pass along to Tallahassee.
"So if this does happen in my city — or anywhere — it can be done safely," Castillo said. "Even the most ardent gun owner would be a little worried."
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