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Florida judge (almost) shuts down that Big Pine shooting range

By Linda Grist Cunningham, editor and proprietor

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of Key West Island News and KeyWestWatch Media LLC. She and her husband, a park ranger at Fort Zach, live in Key West with their Cat 5s.


You’ve got to celebrate incremental victories when you’re dealing with the Florida Legislature and its National Rife Association sycophants.

Between state Republicans drunk on their collective brand of toddler “I do it,” and the NRA’s determination to arm Floridians for their jaunts to the big box stores and burger joints, Florida shares with Texas, pride of place among great states for guns, concealed or otherwise.

On June 2, Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge John C. Cooper did from the bench what local governments and regular folks have been unable to do since 2011. Cooper ruled that Florida Gov. Rick Scott does not have the authority to remove local elected officials from office should they dare add local gun control rules to their books.

Cooper’s ruling is a bit like cotton candy. Ah, the delicious sweetness of it all. And, then there’s the cardboard. The state maintains its grip on its self-granted authority to create, mandate and enforce all Florida firearms control. The state can continue to fine local governments $5,000 if they impose local rules.

Nevertheless, let’s lick that cardboard. Cooper’s ruling opens the door legally for Florida’s municipalities to get back in the business of controlling firearms.

First in line should be Monroe County because down here we have our own, over-the-top gun goonies. Witness the good old boy up on Big Pine Key. Stephen Colbert calls Doug Varrieur a “difference maker” — tongue firmly in cheek, of course. This Eden Pines subdivision home boasts a private, outdoor target practice shooting range (great line item for a real estate/home for sale property listing, don’t you think?)

When the neighborhood shooting range conflicts broke through the backyard and into the national media several months ago, Monroe County joined the list of other Florida counties who found, to their dismay, they no longer had any control over who shot what and where in their towns — and had not since 2011. That canal-side target practice was Florida-legislature approved, as I explained in this excerpt from an earlier column:

There was a time when Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law appeared to be the poster child for the National Rifle Association and second amendment fans. That was before Florida took over all regulation of firearms — that’s all, folks, not most — and specifically prohibited local governments from even having, much less enforcing, local ordinances.
State statute 790.33 gives ironclad power to the Florida legislature to control firearms. Section 790.15 specially says one can’t fire away on or over public property or rights-of-way. What none of the state laws says is this: You can’t discharge firearms on private property or within the city limits.
The law that lets you shoot on private property has been around for decades, but it wasn’t until a couple years ago that the legislature took away all local power — and ended any chance for municipalities to regulate the discharge of firearms within their borders.

Gov. Scott can appeal the ruling, of course, and there’s little doubt his NRA whisperers will encourage him to do so. After all, who better to control an outdoor shooting range in Big Pine than a governor and his elected and self-anointed, gun-toting cronies?


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