Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Fla. Man Builds Shooting Range in His Yard, and It's Legal

A man from St. Petersburg, Florida, appeared to be in trouble after he told his neighbors he was building a shooting range in his front yard. The neighbors were outraged and called police. But believe it or not, police said Joseph Carannante, 21, wasn't breaking any laws.

The local code enforcement authority also said building a shooting range in Carannante's front yard didn't violate any local zoning or building codes, WTSP-TV reports.

Oh Florida, you so crazy.

A Shooting Range of One's Own

Joseph Carannante just wanted "a place where he can shoot his 9mm in peace," UPI reported. Because, really, isn't that what everyone wants? Not if you're Carannante's neighbors, who were concerned that their children might be in harm's way.

The law, though, just wasn't on their side. Florida Statute 790.15 prohibits firing a gun over a public street or "recklessly or negligently" firing a gun outdoors "on any property used primarily as the site of a dwelling." However, Carannante doesn't seem to be acting in disregard of safety (although his "shooting range" consists of a backstop made of a cement block surrounded by wooden shipping pallets).

The statute's apparent permissiveness has allowed multiple gun owners to create home shooting ranges -- all of which are perfectly legal -- since the law was passed in 1987.

As for Carannante's neighbors, they could have tried using a tort called "private nuisance," which allows a neighbor to sue if another neighbor is interfering with his right to enjoyment of his property. A successful nuisance suit would result in damages, as well as an injunction (a court order) requiring Carannante to stop shooting his gun in his yard.

Don't Make the Neighbors Angry

All of these questions are academic at this point. It turns out that Carannante and his neighbors were able to resolve this without a lawsuit. A Tampa radio host arranged for a local shooting range to provide Carannante with a free membership, and Carannante's former employer offered to "make it worth his while" if Carannante tore down the backstop.

Carannante agreed, partly because his neighbors were getting angrier and angrier. "I got death threats, threats of blowing up my home, swatting my house," he told Tampa's WFLA-TV. ("Swatting" is a form of harassment where a neighbor calls the police claiming that a person has drugs or weapons in his house, prompting a raid by the SWAT team.)

As a result of this incident, Patrick Leary, one of Carannante's neighbors, started an online petition. Leary wants to make it illegal in Florida to construct an outdoor gun range within 500 of an occupied dwelling.

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