Loophole in Florida’s Home Gun Range Law

Just this past February, Governor Rick Scott signed into law Senate Bill 130 which restricts backyard shooting ranges. Under the new law, backyard gun ranges are prohibited if the population density is greater than one house per acre.

florida-backyard-gun-range-web-croppedWhile this put an end to people setting up backyard gun ranges in most neighborhoods, it created a gray area that is coming to light in a Lake County neighborhood.

Residents in the 44 Gables subdivision in Eustis, which are on less than an acre each, are complaining that the new law does not address a problem they are facing with a neighboring gun range. However, the gun range is located at a home on several acres that is just outside the subdivision and in the county.

The new law provides little comfort to the residents of the subdivision, especially those home that back up to the gun range.

Jonas Morgan, the gun range owner, is a certified NRA Instructor and owns Morgan’s Gun Vault in Leesburg. Morgan said the range is faced away from homes and that his berm, a mound that stops the bullets, is built to NRA standards. Further, he claims to only shoot three or four times per week.

Morgan’s range faces an unpaved road with a large orange grove on the other side. However, the back side of his home is bordered by nine single-family homes in the Gables subdivision. While there are some tall trees and fences to mitigate the noise, residents have recorded the sound of gunfire from blocks away, saying it’s not a safety issue, but rather one of noise.

The neighbors have sought to stop the activity at the gun range by way of a noise abatement or complaint.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office reports being called to the gun range 17 times in the last year. However, according to the Sheriff’s Department, the rule and laws do not consider the noise from gunfire. The department has asked for an opinion from State Attorney Pam Bondi on the issue, citing the need for clarification of the law.

We have previously reported on this new law.

Guns and Roses—Suit to Permit Guns at Atlanta Botanical Garden to Go Forward

Georgia-carry-dot-org-logoOn Monday, May 9, 2016, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that a lawsuit filed by a gun rights group seeking injunctive relief against the Atlanta Botanical Garden over the issue of patrons carrying weapons when visiting the attraction may go forward. A lower court had previously dismissed the lawsuit.

The unanimous decision ruled that Fulton County Superior Court Judge Gail Tusan had “improperly dismissed” the suit brought by Phillip Evans, a member of GeorgiaCarry.org, on the grounds that a judge could not preempt the garden from seeking criminal charges against someone, who has a permit, for simply carrying a weapon.

The Supreme Court said the judge in this case was wrong because the garden was not a government entity and did not have the authority to bring criminal charges. So the Supreme Court sent the matter back to the lower court for reconsideration.

The case began in in October 2014 when Evans wore his holstered gun during a visit with his family to the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

According to court filings, the Gwinnett County man walked around the garden for about three hours with his gun openly strapped to his side on Oct. 5, 2014. The complaint said no one stopped him or complained about it that time. But when the family returned a week later, the police were called and Evans was told he could not be armed while on Botanical Garden property.

Evans sued on the grounds that the land where the garden is located is owned by the city – even though the Botanical Garden is a private entity — and Georgia Law allows firearms in publicly-owned spaces except for the few specifically exempted like jails, courthouses and government building where a certified law enforcement officer provides security at entrances.

Evans suit attempted to preempt the possibility that he could be arrested if he returned to the garden with his gun. But a lower court said it could not issue an injunction to prevent the “enforcement of a criminal law” if the garden should seek criminal charges against Evans if he returns and is armed.

Judge Gail Tusan had ruled a private entity, the Botanical Garden, cannot be enjoined from banning guns.

Judge Tusan declared that GeorgiaCarry’s attempt to obtain a declaratory judgment or injunction against Atlanta Botanical Garden was the wrong legal remedy because it would have required the trial court to interpret and apply a criminal statute.

The Supreme Court said the Judge Tusan was wrong to dismiss the case for that reason.

“A declaratory judgment action is not inappropriate merely because it touches upon a question of criminal law,” Justice Carol Hunstein wrote for the unanimous court. “In fact, such an action is an available remedy to test the validity and enforceability of a statute where an actual controversy exists.”

“The relief sought is simply a declaration” that those with carry permits “may carry their respective weapons on the Garden’s premises,” Justice Carol Hustein wrote. “That relief, if granted, is simply a declaration of rights and requires no action on the part of the Garden or anyone else.”

The high court did, however, uphold only one part of the trial court’s order. The justices rejected GeorgiaCarry’s request for an injunction prohibiting Atlanta Botanical Garden from arresting licensed individuals carrying weapons at the facility, declaring the issue moot because Atlanta Botanical Garden has no authority to enforce criminal law.

While Georgia law allows firearms to be carried in many public places, they can be banned on private property.

We will continue to follow this case and report on it as things develop.

Oklahoma Hunters No Longer Hogtied if Governor Signs Bill into Law

On May 9th, the Oklahoma Senate gave approval to Senate Bill 1142 aimed at reducing Oklahoma’s feral hog population and the bill may be headed to the Governor for consideration.

“If signed by the Governor, the new law would no longer hogtie property owners and hunters when it comes to addressing the problem of feral hogs,” says U. S. Law Shield of Oklahoma Independent Program Attorney Robert Robles.

Oklahoma lawmakers are trying to help farmers and ranchers with a nuisance problem that has been growing over the past five years, costing them thousands of dollars in lost crops and livestock. The bill would allow property owners and those with permission from the property owners to shoot and kill feral hogs without a permit anytime of the day or night.wild-boar-running

“Feral hog problems in Oklahoma are nothing new,” says Robles. “These wild animals can weigh hundreds of pounds and are often very destructive and aggressive.”

Sen. Kyle Loveless is one several co-authors. He said this is a legislation that’s long overdue.

“They literally are a virus with four legs with the demeanor of a Tasmanian devil,” Loveless said. “I don’t look at it as hunting. I look at it as preservation of your property,” he added.
Right now, the wild hogs can only be killed during season and with a hunting permit.

“This legislation gives Oklahomans more options to combat the rapidly growing menace to safety and property,” says Robles.

However, on May 12, 2016, the bill was recalled by the Senate on a housekeeping measure to correct language in the bill. The bill will now have to pass another vote in the Legislature before it can be returned to the governor’s office. Gov. Fallin has not indicated whether she will sign the bill into law

We will keep you informed as to the Governor’s decision.

Oklahomans Closer to Open Carry Without a Permit

On May 4th, the House Conference Committee gave preliminary approval to House Bill 3098, legislation that would allow Oklahomans to openly carry guns without a license, training or background checks.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Jeff Coody, says he needs signatures from seven committee members in the House or Senate before a hearing can be scheduled on the House floor before the session ends May 27, 2016 (“Sine Die”). If approved by the House, it goes to the Governor for signature and would then become law.

Oklahoma State Representative Jeff Coody (R-District 63)
Oklahoma State Representative Jeff Coody (R-District 63)

The bill would allow adults over 21 and without a felony conviction to openly carry firearms without a license, training or background checks.

According to U.S. Law Shield of Oklahoma Independent Program Attorney Robert Robles, “If the bill does not make it out of the House before the legislative session ends, the bill dies and is not carried over to the next session in 2017.”

“A new bill would have to be introduced and go through the whole process again if the legislature seeks to allow open carry without a permit in Oklahoma,” said Robles.

“If, however, the bill makes it out of the conference committee,” Robles adds, “it will be sent on to Governor Fallin for her consideration. It is not clear if she intends to veto this bill or not.”

The veto process in Oklahoma can get complicated. Basically, the process for a veto by the governor is:

 

Within 10 days after passage by the House and Senate, the bill is signed by the presiding offices of each chamber, the chief clerk of the House, the secretary of the Senate and then given to the governor. If legislative adjournment “Sine Die” has not occurred, the governor has 10 days (excluding Sunday) to act on the bill. (If it is sent to the governor within 5 days of adjournment, the governor has 15 days.) If the governor does nothing, does not veto it within that 10-day period (a “pocket veto”), it automatically is vetoed and does not become law. It becomes law only if the governor formally acts on it by signing it into law.

 

If the governor vetoes:

The Legislature can let a veto stand or attempt to override it. The governor can veto an entire bill or “line item” veto some parts of it and approve its other provisions. The Legislature may override either a straight or line-item veto by a two-thirds vote of both chambers, until sine die. After sine die, the governor may also “pocket veto” a bill by keeping it 15 days after the Legislature has adjourned without taking official action. With this approach, the Legislature does not have the opportunity to override.

With the end of the legislative session looming, it is important that the conference Committee act quickly to allow the legislature time to override a veto should that become necessary.

We will keep you informed as to the progress of this important piece of legislation.