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Stray bullet hits house, raises questions about backyard gun range safety

Posted at 6:42 PM, May 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-09 18:43:25-04

After finding a bullet lodged in the side of his home in Golden Gate Estates, Michael Simonik said that he doesn't know where it came from - but that he hears gunshots all the time in his neighborhood on 14th Avenue Northeast. 

"That's my bedroom," Simonik said, indicating the room on the inside of the wall where he found the bullet. "My head (would be) right there inside."

Backyard gun ranges aren't uncommon in the Estates, but a Florida law enacted in 2016 makes it illegal to shoot a gun on residential property where there is more than one house per acre. 

"And even those on 5-acre or 10-acre lots, they need to be safe," said Bob Unger, an NRA member. "It still has to be protected."

Guidelines from the Collier County Sheriff's Office say to always make sure bullets fired from a backyard gun range - whether stray or intended for a target - can be safely stopped. That usually means having a solid berm of dirt, rock or concrete behind the target area.

While Florida law does allow for shooting in backyard ranges, reckless or negligent shooting - such as firing over occupied homes - is a misdemeanor. 

In 2016, teenager Deborah Ledesma was hit in the hand by a stray bullet while in her Golden Gate Estates home. The neighbor who accidentally shot her from his backyard shooting range was arrested in that incident.