Doug Varrieur, a 57-year-old resident of Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys, found a little-known part of Florida law that prohibits local officials from inhibiting gun rights in any way. To avoid a 70-mile trip to the closest commercial gun range, Varrieur set up targets in his backyard on December 26, after purchasing pistols for himself and his wife for Christmas. Outrage over the live gunfire immediately spread among local neighbors and was only amplified when they found out that legally, there was nothing they could do to shut down Mr. Varrieur’s new range.
Under Florida Statute 790, gun control is solely under state–not local or municipal–jurisdiction. Violation of the statute is subject to a $5,000 fine. After legislatures bolstered the law in 2011, the governor is legally allowed to remove from office any local government official who attempts to restrict gun use.
Rick Ramsay, the sheriff of Monroe County where Varrieur’s residence-turned-shooting-range is located, told Reuters, “”You can slice and dice it anyway you want, but there’s an accident waiting to happen.” His disapproval of the law is shared by Michael Ryan, the mayor of the Southeast Florida town of Sunrise. In February, Ryan wrote to Governor Rick Scott to ask him to promise not to remove any local official who imposes reasonable restrictions on target shooting in residential neighborhoods.
Lawsuits in both Palm Beach and Broward counties are currently underway in attempts to overturn the state statute. In response to Ryan’s request, Governor Scott said it would be “prudent” to wait until these lawsuits are resolved before making a decision.