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Scott Signs 'Backyard Gun Range,' Eight Other Bills

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TALLAHASSEE (NSF) – Surrounded by a group of police chiefs, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a measure dubbed the "backyard range" bill, intended to restrict the recreational discharge of a firearm in certain residential areas.

The proposal was one of nine that Scott signed into law Wednesday.

The backyard range measure (SB 130) prohibits the recreational discharge of a firearm outdoors, including for target shooting or celebratory shooting, in primarily residential areas with a density of one or more dwelling units per acre. A violation would be a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The bill, which goes into effect immediately, was backed by the Florida Police Chiefs Association, the National Rifle Association and the Unified Sportsmen of Florida.

St. Augustine Beach Police Chief Robert Hardwick said the legislation will ensure "residential areas are better protected from people using firearms irresponsibly and unlawfully."

A Senate staff analysis of the bill pointed to reports about people constructing gun ranges in their backyards, with neighbors being concerned for safety. Law enforcement officials complained that they were hamstrung because their lawyers found the state statute barring "recklessly or negligently" discharging a firearm to be "subjective and vague."

Scott's signature Wednesday comes nearly five years after the governor signed into law a measure that voided all local firearms restrictions.

The "backyard range" issue received heightened attention in June 2014 when the Comedy Channel's "Colbert Report" did a satirical piece on a Big Pine Key resident who legally set up a makeshift side-yard shooting range using a state law, created in 1987, regarding shooting on private property.

Scott also signed a measure (SB 228) Wednesday that would remove aggravated assault from a list of offenses that lead to people being sentenced under the 10-20-Life mandatory-minimum sentencing law. Scott said he signed the bill because it was supported by the law enforcement community and "made sense."

A third bill (SB 158) signed Wednesday would allow people with lifetime fishing or hunting licenses, or boater-safety identification cards, to have a symbol added to their driver licenses displaying that lifetime status. The addition of the symbol, when a driver's license is issued or renewed, would come with a $1 fee.

Both of those measures go into effect on July 1.

Other bills signed Wednesday (SB 182) would extend several public-records exemptions involving financial "trade secret" information, while a related proposal (SB 180) would make theft of trade-secret financial information a third-degree felony. Those laws go into effect on Oct. 1.

Four other measures signed by Scott Wednesday (SB 1030, SB 1032, SB 1038 and SB 1040) involve technical changes to state statutes.

The News Service of Florida's Jim Turner contributed to this report.

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