At some point in your life, you’ve almost certainly had a bad neighbor. The guy in the next apartment who plays Motörhead through the Ages at full volume — every night. Or the fastidious neighbor who starts to mow the lawn at seven o’clock in the goddamn morning on a Sunday. Or the lady next door who owns half a dozen yappy little dogs that shit all over your yard. Or the family across the hall whose laissez-faire approach to garbage day is an open invitation to Buick-sized cockroaches.
But I’m going to guess that unless you live in Collier County, Florida — or more specifically, the city of Naples — or even more specifically, the suburb of Golden Gate Estates — your bad neighbor wasn’t all that bad. Because your neighbor wasn’t Herold Lanham. This is Herold Lanham:
Herold likes his guns. He likes shooting his guns. He likes shooting them in his backyard, where he’s set up a practice shooting range, with a three-foot berm to stop the bullets. He really likes shooting his guns — but he’s not very good at it. Herold was trying to get better at shooting his guns when he fired a round into the home of his neighbors, the Ledesma family. They, very reasonably, notified the police.
The police probably told Herold to be more careful.
Herold wasn’t discouraged by his astonishingly shitty marksmanship. No sir, practice, that’s what he needed. Practice and persistence. Gutta cavat lapidem non vi, sed sæpe cadendo, as they say in Collier County — the drop hollows out the stone not by strength, but by constant falling. He just needed to keep at it.
And he did. Herold soon returned to his backyard gun range. And hey, he shot the Ledesma house again. And put a round into the living room of the Zuferri family. The police were called again. They probably told him to be more careful. Again.
This unfortunate turn of events would cause most people to ask “Is target shooting right for me? Should I perhaps consider some other form of outdoor exercise? I hear badminton is fun.” But Herold Lanham is NOT most people. Was he disheartened? Was he dismayed by a few errant rounds? No sir, not at all.
More practice. Earnest practice. By perseverance the snail reached the ark, as they say in Collier County. Numquam dedite — never surrender. Quitters never win and winners never quit. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. And all that.
Herold was determined. Resolute, even. Dedicated to improving his skill. He plucked up his courage, picked up his gun, and returned once again to his backyard target range. Where he shot 14-year-old Deborah Ledesma, who had the misfortune to be…well, in her home. The round shattered a window, sending fragments of glass in the young woman’s face, and lodged in her left hand, breaking a few bones and rupturing a tendon.
The police were called again, along with an ambulance. This time Herold was arrested and charged with discharging a firearm in public. But hey, this is Florida, where it’s perfectly legal to shoot guns in the privacy of your own back yard.
That’s right. Section 790.15 of the Florida Statutes says you can’t “discharge a firearm in any public place“, but a backyard is NOT a public place. It says you can’t discharge a firearm “on the right-of-way of any paved public road, highway, or street” but a backyard shooting range isn’t a road. It says you can’t discharge a firearm “over the right-of-way of any paved public road, highway, or street or over any occupied premises“, but there wasn’t any road between the backyard of the Lanham house and the backyard of the Ledesma house. And hey, Herold’s shot didn’t pass OVER any occupied premises. It smacked right into them. The law also states you can’t discharge a firearm on private property if it’s done “recklessly or negligently.” But our boy Herold, he’d built a three-foot berm to stop the bullets. He wasn’t being reckless; there was plenty of reck involved. As for negligence, he’d built a three-foot berm to stop bullets. What more could they expect?
So that charge had to be dropped. Instead, Herold was charged with shooting a missile into a building, and he was released on bond. His attorney acknowledges that the incident was unfortunate.
“There’s no doubt this was a tragedy. But I’m sorry, sometimes accidents happen, and that doesn’t mean somebody’s committed a crime simply because there’s a tragic outcome.”
By the way, in Florida there are no zoning requirements or building codes when it comes to adding a backyard firing range. Anybody can do it, and they can do it in any way they choose. Had Lanham wanted to build an addition to his home, or install a swimming pool, he’d have to have the plans approved and meet construction codes.
And that, my friends, is why the Second Amendment is the best amendment. Because accidents sometimes happen, and you can’t be held responsible for an accident. If it involves a firearm.