‘Property rights’ bill banning stray bullets avoids being shot down at first Senate stop
The home shooting range police say the bullet that hit Nicole Allen came from. Image via Palm Beach Sheriff's Office.

PBC Home firing range
‘Just as people have the right to fire guns on their property, people who are on their property should have the right to be safe.’

A bill that would classify firing a bullet onto someone else’s property without their permission as trespassing avoided being shot dead at its first Senate stop.

The measure (SB 270) advanced on a 5-3 vote, with two Republicans approving it alongside three Democrats in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

If passed, the bill would make shooting a lethal projectile from a firearm, bow, crossbow or “similar tensile device” across private land without authorization a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines.

Government agencies acting within their scope of duty, people lawfully defending their life or property and lethal projectiles that do not “pose a reasonably foreseeable risk to life, safety, or property” would be exempted.

“Just as people have the right to fire guns on their property, people who are on their property should have the right to be safe,” said the bill’s sponsor, Boynton Beach Democratic Sen. Lori Berman.

Berman’s bill, which she amended Tuesday to apply to Florida’s property laws rather than state gun statutes, among other things, was inspired by a frightening incident in Palm Beach County last year.

On Sept. 10, Lake Worth Beach resident Nicole Adams was outside on her property when a stray bullet struck her in the back.

“I went flying. It had to be like four feet,” she told Florida Politics last year. “I couldn’t breathe.”

Miraculously, the bullet — later identified as a .45 caliber round — didn’t enter Adams’ body. Police photos of her neighbor’s makeshift outdoor shooting range 950 feet away that the bullet came from and an array of AR-15-style rifles show a low, unfinished backstop and minuscule targets set up with an undeveloped area behind them. The bullet that struck Adams passed through a grouping of trees, over a canal and onto her property.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office didn’t charge anyone connected to the shooting. That’s because state law allows people to shoot weapons outdoors in areas with residential densities of less than one home per acre.

Residents across the state have complained for years about errantly fired bullets from home shooting ranges striking them, their family members, belongings or pets. But they already have legal recourse, according to Luis Valdes, Florida State Director for Gun Owners of America.

Speaking to the panel Tuesday, Valdes pointed to Florida’s “deadly missile” statute, which provides that any person who “wantonly or maliciously” shoots into a building, vehicle or aircraft is guilty of a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

“We already have laws on the books,” he said. “Adding more to it and simply outlawing the ability for people who use their property in a safe and responsible manner is a violation of our rights.”

Valdes did not explain how a person firing a bullet from their property onto the property of their unknowing and nonconsenting neighbor was safe and responsible.

The home shooting range police say the bullet that hit Nicole Allen came from. Image via Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office.

Spring Hills Republican Sen. Blaise Ingoglia said he sympathized with Adams and acknowledged Berman’s measure would set “a pretty high standard” for liability on a shooter’s behalf. But he would nonetheless vote against the bill, he said, because he feared liberal prosecutors would weaponize it to go after law-abiding gun owners.

“I’m very concerned about new language going into statute that is meant to specifically fix a problem,” he said. “My concern is overzealous prosecutors, because it seems every time we make a change to the gun statute there seems to be one or two prosecutors (in) Florida that use the plain language against a gun owner, thereby taking away her or his Second Amendment right.”

Republican Sens. Jennifer Bradley of Fleming Island and Clay Yarborough of Jacksonville voted “no” with Ingoglia.

The committee Chair, Fort Myers Sen. Jonathan Martin, said he originally had reservations about Berman’s bill. But the amendment switching the bill’s focus to property rights “completely changes” its aim, he said, adding that something needs to be done to tamp down on needless gun deaths and injuries.

“There is a lot of landowners who are … getting shot at, hearing bullets whizzing by their heads, their kids’ heads — it’s happened to me, when I lived in a rural part of the state,” he said. “This law, and working with gun owners and gun advocates from across the country on the language, is a good starting point. This is the first stop, so I’m a ‘yes’ today. I want to deal with this issue.”

Fellow Republican Sen. Keith Perry of Gainesville joined him in supporting the measure, as did Democratic Sens. Jason Pizzo of Miami, Tina Polsky of Boca Raton and Bobby Powell of West Palm Beach.

SB 270 is to next go before the Senate Judiciary Committee, after which it has one more stop before reaching a floor vote.

Its House companion (HB 259) by Wellington Democratic Rep. Katherine Waldron awaits a hearing before the first of three committees to which Speaker Paul Renner referred it.

Berman and former Democratic Rep. Emily Slosberg sponsored similar legislation in 2019 that died without a hearing.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • Josh Green

    January 30, 2024 at 1:54 pm

    Tresspassing? How about calling it what it is?
    Attempted murder.

  • It's Complicated

    January 30, 2024 at 2:12 pm

    This bill has almost zero chance of being heard in the House. With respect to existing law, the felony standards of “wantonly or maliciously” are pretty high and require the Prosecutor to demonstrate how the act was wanton, or prove malicious intent to get a conviction. That’s easy when someone is popping off rounds in a public place while running their mouth, but could be very difficult to prove if someone is shooting at targets on a berm in a backyard.

    Gun owners need to cease and desist with the dumbassery if they don’t want these sorts of bills to get traction in the future.

Comments are closed.


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