A Florida man turned his front yard in St. Petersburg into a makeshift gun range — and there's not much his angry neighbors can do about it.
It's perfectly legal for residents of the Sunshine State — also nicknamed the "gunshine state" for its love of the Second Amendment — to fire weapons just feet away from homes where children live and play.
Police told local reporters that all they can do is "monitor" the activities at the home of Joseph Carannante, the 21-year-old responsible for the gun range in St. Petersburg's Lakewood Estates neighborhood.
"I don't want to hurt myself or any neighbors. I don't want to hurt anybody. I just want to use this as my enjoyment," Carannante told Tampa Bay's News Channel 8. "I don't want to have to go to a gun range when I can just go outside my door."
His remarks angered a few neighbors, who were hardly reassured by Carannante's promise that he'll warn them before shooting.
"I don't know if this idiot is going to start popping off rounds," neighbor Patrick Leary told a local broadcaster. "You heard him say, 'I'll tell the neighbors when I'm getting ready to fire.' What, do we gather our children and hide? Ridiculous. C'mon."
Kendra O'Connor, a local parent, was equally outraged. "I don't consider it responsible, I don't consider it reasonable," O'Connor said. "He's asking me to go inside my house, go to the other side of the house, as he's informing me he'll fire his weapon."
But Carannante is not the first Floridian to satisfy his desire for target practice without leaving the comforts of home. Homemade, residential firing ranges are actually pretty common in Florida — and perfectly okay, according to state law.
'You heard him say, 'I'll tell the neighbors when I'm getting ready to fire.' What, do we gather our children and hide?'
"I've been getting a lot of calls from people, not just from Florida but actually other states as well, but a lot from Florida, from people dealing with this issue," Ladd Everitt, director of communication at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, a nationwide advocacy group, told VICE News. "Basically, they live in what anyone would consider a residential area and they are dealing with constant gunfire, in some cases from gun ranges that are incredibly makeshift, they shouldn't even be called ranges."
In another Florida case, "a guy literally just put up a target in front of his shed and went there and shot his handgun all the time when people behind the shed were walking by," Everitt said.
In other instances, residents of apartment complexes complained about "constant gunfire going on," Everitt added.
Florida's lax gun laws are compounded by urban sprawl, he said, noting that some formerly rural areas are now densely populated.
Local officials and police can't do much about the shooting ranges. According to Florida Statute 790, gun control is the exclusive jurisdiction of the state. And under state law, domestic gun ranges are perfectly legit and very loosely regulated. There are no restrictions on the type of arms or ammo that can be used, on the time of day or night weapons can be fired, or on their proximity to schools, daycare centers, and playgrounds.
Authorities can only intervene when gun owners become "negligent or reckless." In other words, critics say, when it's too late.
"This is the kind of thing that goes on down there because so many laws they have allow this type of activity to exist," Everitt said. "This is just symptomatic of a gun culture in many states that treats gun owners really as super citizens and that accords them more rights than the majority of Americans who have chosen not to own guns."
In 2011, Florida's state legislature enacted a "pre-emption law" that levies a $5,000 fine on any local official who tries to limit gun ranges.
"Florida citizens can certainly oppose the backyard gun ranges, but due to Florida's pre-emption laws on guns, there is little locally that can be done about them," Patricia Brigham, chair of the Gun Safety Committee of the League of Women Voters of Florida, told VICE News. "In short, pre-emption does not allow Florida municipalities to enact its own gun laws; the state pre-empts such laws."
A number of states have passed laws similar to Florida's firing range protections in an effort to keep local leaders from limiting gun use.
"This is just the latest example of the results of the gun lobby's push for pre-emption laws all across the country that block cities from enacting their own gun laws," Jack Warner, a spokesman for EveryTown for Gun Safety, told VICE News. "Mayors and local law enforcement are best positioned to know what works for their communities and they don't need the gun lobby to determine which laws make sense for them."
In Florida, for instance, Miami has "very different needs" when it comes to protection from gun violence than other rural and scarcely populated areas of the state, Everitt agreed.
Regardless of stands on the right to bear arms, residential fire ranges are dangerous, critics say.
"Even to the most pro-gun person, to have a gun range in the middle of a residential neighborhood doesn't make any sense at all," County Commissioner Ken Welch said in reference to Carannante's front yard range. "I'm hoping we can get to some common ground and common sense."
Michael Ryan, the mayor of Sunrise, a city in southeast Florida, has been fighting against the pre-emption laws.
"The irony is if someone wants to put in an addition to their home or an in-ground pool, they have to come through code enforcement and zoning," Ryan told Reuters last year. "Here, we can't say anything."
Ryan is one of several local leaders that have filed a lawsuit that questions the constitutionality of the pre-emption law. But with Florida's gun-loving legislature and a strong second amendment lobby in the state, they face an uphill battle.
"They have a draconian pre-emption law that prohibits local officials from regulating firearms in any way shape or form," Everitt said. "They can't do anything, the state has to regulate and set a standard for every county no matter what the needs of that specific county might be."
Everitt called the pre-emption law "ludicrous" and said Florida lawmakers catered to the whims of Marion Hammer, a powerful lobbyist in the state and the former president of the National Rifle Association.
"She writes gun policy in that state and the legislators rubberstamp whatever she tells them to do, and that's why you have this situation," Everitt said.
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