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Safety precautions for backyard gun ranges

Posted at 8:04 PM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-01 20:04:23-04

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — The Collier County Sheriff's Office has a message for people who have backyard gun ranges: 'please shoot responsibly."

With more people staying home during the Coronavirus pandemic, the Collier County Sheriff's Office has seen an increase in calls regarding gunshots in the Golden Gate Estates area.

"We've been receiving a lot of calls lately about shots being fired, people saying they have bullets flying over their house and hitting nearby trees," said Lt. Joseph Ellis, who supervises the CCSO Golden Gate Estates substation.

This area is a popular place for backyard gun rages since most of the homes there fit the requirements needed to shoot on private property legally.

"Legally, people are allowed to fire guns in their backyard, but we just want to make sure they're doing it safely," said Lt. Ellis.

Under Florida law, people with one dwelling per unit acre are legally allowed to shoot on their property.

"There are a few other areas in the county that meet that requirement also, but Golden Gate estates is probably 90% of the county that actually falls into that category," said Lt. Ellis.

Deputies confirm there have been six reported incidents so far this year.

That's already half of the total number reported last year.

Lt. Ellis says it's important for shooters to know what's behind their target.

"The biggest thing is to make sure you have a proper backstop, so you know where your bullets are actually going, knowing the capabilities of yourself and the weapon that you're firing, the ammunition that you're using, how far is that capable of going," said Lt. Ellis.

Other tips include never firing at hard surfaces or water because a shot could glance off, ricochet and injure someone, and never shoot at glass bottles, living trees or inappropriate targets which would create a hazard for others or damage the environment.

The person shooting must not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and can not discharge a gun over an occupied premises or a paved public roadway

Ellis says having the proper backstop is vital to prevent stray bullets from hurting someone.

In 2016, FOX 4 told you about a 14-year old girl who was struck by a stray bullet in the Golden Gate Estates area.

"We did have an incident a few years back where a young lady was actually in her home, sitting on her couch, and she actually took a bullet to her wrist," said Lt. Ellis.

While the victim was okay, she did undergo several surgeries.

Collier County Sheriff's deputies determined the bullet came from a backyard shooting range set up by her neighbor, who was criminally charged.

People who shoot recklessly could face criminal charges.

Anyone that hears shooting and believe it to be unsafe is encouraged to contact the Collier County Sheriff's Office.