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Florida Law on Where to Lawfully and Unlawfully Discharge Firearms
Highlands News-Sun Newspaper Article for Central Florida Based in Highlands County
The main objective of this Florida Gun & Self-Defense column is to educate gun owners about gun law and self-defense law. When considering gun ownership, it is imperative to know that ignorance of the state and federal laws is not an excuse for unintentionally breaking those laws. It is the purpose of this weekly column to inform and educate gun owners of their personal responsibility as defined under the law.
I strongly suggest before you handle a gun, to learn and implement Colonel Jeff Cooper’s Four Rules for Safe Firearms Handling; One, treat all guns as if they are always loaded with a round in the chamber, even when the gun is empty. Two, never point the muzzle at anything you ‘don’t’ want to destroy. Three, keep your finger off the trigger until your gun sights are on the intended target. Four, always be sure of your target and what is beyond it. In addition, I would like to add a fifth point, “All bullets when fired, have a very expensive lawyer attached to them, so hit what you aim at.”
Firearms are extreme tools designed for lawful usage, originally and primarily to save lives when under an unlawful lethal threat of death or grave bodily harm and then secondarily to hunt for food, and for sport shooting, and lastly for recreation.
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With those points in mind, today’s firearms focus will be on where you can and cannot lawfully “discharge a firearm in public or on residential property”. State Statute 790.15. There are four sections in this statute.
One, it is illegal to knowingly fire a firearm in a public place, or on or over a roadway of any kind, or over an occupied premises, or if a person fires recklessly or negligently on any property used as a dwelling, or if zoned residential. To do so a person commits a first-degree misdemeanor which carries a sentence of up to one year in prison and a $1000 fine.
Two, any person in a vehicle who knowingly and willfully fires a firearm from a vehicle within 1000 feet of any person, commits a second-degree felony which carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years and a $10,000 fine.
Three, any driver or owner of a vehicle, whether or not the owner is in the vehicle, who knowingly directs any person to fire a firearm from the vehicle, commits a third-degree felony, which carries a sentence of 5 years and a $5000 fine.
Four, any person who recreationally fires a firearm outdoors, including target shooting in an area a person reasonably knows or should know is primarily residential in nature and that has a residential density of one or more dwelling units per acre, commits a first-degree misdemeanor which carries a sentence of 1 year with a $1000 fine.
There are exceptions allowed for section four: One, a person lawfully defending life or property or when performing official duties requiring the discharge of a firearm. Two, if under the circumstances when firing a firearm, does not pose a reasonably foreseeable risk to life, safety or property. Three, a person accidentally fires a firearm.
Last week I covered the five elements of a legal self-defense event (Fl. Statute 776): First element is Avoidance in the strict legal definition means there is no duty to retreat, so you can ‘stand your ground’ when under an imminent threat of grave harm or death. Except if it is proven in court that it was “clearly and obviously possible to safely retreat” a reasonable person would do so, you lose a claim of self-defense due to failing the element of Reasonableness. Then the last four are Innocence, Imminence, Proportionality, and Reasonableness.
The Element of Reasonableness is also in State Statute 790.15. The element of reasonableness is implied by the words, “Knowingly” and “Reasonably knowingly” in all four sections, including the three subsections of section four, with the use of the words “lawfully and performing duties”, “reasonably foreseeable’ and “accidently”.
Remember, when you read a statute and you see the word “Reasonableness” it is referring to all the steps of the legal process, which evaluate your actions in question. And whatever the collected evidence proves under the legal evaluation of law enforcement, the prosecutor, followed by a judge and finally the wildcard element of a jury, that outcome will determine your legal culpability and your legal standing.
So when it comes to firing your firearm on residential property, whether yours or someone else’s property, there can only be one home or dwelling in an acre, which is about a 70 yds. by 70 yds. area. To state it another way, a building lot is approximately 100 ft. by 80 ft. and it would take about five and a half of those building lots to equal an acre. (70 yds. by 70 yds. or 210 ft. by 210 ft. spaces)
It is best to play it safe if you believe you have an acre or more of land and have neighbor’s homes on the borders of your land, to select an area of your land, which does not have a home downrange.
A 9mm round will travel 275 yards (almost three football fields) before dropping six feet into the ground. And it will still be travelling at an approximate speed of 833 ft. per second for a total flight time of about one second when it hits the ground at that distance. However, you should further take into account it could skip off a rock or hard object and continue even further. It is best to have a steep earthen backstops eight to ten feet tall behind your target, or a thick wooded area that people do not use.
Before you choose to fire your firearm in the public domain, take great consideration of the possible risks of your particular setting. Know what is illegal and legal, safe and unsafe. And remember every bullet has a prosecutor and a very expensive lawyer and attached to it.
Gun Handling Basics: Many times, over the years when recreationally shooting, I’ve seen people handle their gun by pointing it upward when outdoors, believing it is safe to do so. While this is better than sweeping the muzzle in the direction of where people generally are, it is not the best practice because, what goes up must come down as the saying goes.
Therefore, I strongly suggest pointing the gun downward towards the earth, and directed away from people, homes, buildings, cars and roadways or hard surfaces. If you’re surrounded by the unsafe conditions just mentioned, unload the gun by ejecting the round in the chamber and dropping the magazine or clip from the firearm. Then when in a safe shooting location, follow Cooper’s Four Rules of Safe Gun Handling.
Now, obviously when in a self-defense situation, pointing the gun downward from the low or high ready positions, is the best option for safe muzzle discipline under duress. When under a perceived threat of grave harm or death, you must be ready to put rounds on the threat safely and quickly and having your gun in the high ready position serves to enable you to bring the gun to bear to save your life.
Article Sources: Massad Ayoob’s gun handling publications and Andrew Branca’s Use-of-Force Law publications, and Florida State Statute 790.15 Lawful Discharges of a Firearm, and Statute 776.013 Use of Force Law
Today’s article published online at firstname.lastname@example.org Highlands Guns & Self-Defense
Florida Gun & Self-Defense offers instruction in all educational levels of gun ownership, from elemental to advanced-tactical. If you want to safely, handle your new firearm at home or at the gun range, or desire to master the disciplines necessary for lawful self-defense, custom classes one on one, or group sessions, are available. For more information, please call Dave Douglass at 863-381-8474 Learn to ‘Run a Gun’ safely and legally, to become a responsible gun owner and conceal carrier.
Dave Douglass has been a firearms instructor and trainer since 2013. During those ten years, he has applied himself to the disciplines of advance tactical and self-defense shooting, and Florida gun law and use-of-force self-defense law. He is an adamant supporter of an original literal interpretation of the Second Amendment and is committed to education in all firearms related fields, first as a student and secondly as an instructor. There is always an element of this discipline to learn and relearn, and therefore he offers this article to share that endeavor with the great people of Florida, “The Gunshine State”.
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