In an exclusive story published in May, we chronicled how state and local regulators were harassing Matthew Byatt because of a private gun range he built on his weekend “getaway” property — 21 acres on Ten Rod Road near Middleburg, Florida.
The Australian native built his own “personal” shooting range on the property, which consists of a U-shaped berm that’s 15-feet tall, 20-feet deep and 80 yards long.
He named the property “Black Creek Sporting Club” and incorporated it through an LLC. While he held a machine gun shoot at his range, he never allowed the public to shoot at his facility. It was only built, he said, for friends and family.
After a neighbor complained, county officials and the compliance coordinator for the St. Johns River Water Management District’s Division of Regulatory Service, began peppering Byatt with orders, inspections and other filings.
On May 17, Clay County Code Enforcement Officer Gerry Smith sent Byatt a “cease and desist” letter, ordering him to stop shooting at his own range.
“You must cease all non-permitted activities and business operations from your residential property,” the letter states.”
And then things changed.
A story we published that featured comments from Marion Hammer — former NRA president, current NRA board member and executive director of Unified Sportsmen of Florida — seems to have caused the officials to lose interest.
Hammer pointed out that the officials were likely regulating firearms — a clear violation of Florida’s preemption statute, which states that only the legislature can regulate firearms. If a public official violates preemption, they’re subject to a $5,000 fine, which the statute requires them to pay personally. If the violator is an elected official, they can be fined and removed from office.
Now, it seems the regulators have reconsidered their position.
All they’re requiring Byatt to do is place some sod near his range.
Everything else is okay.
He quickly put the property back into his name, and then took full advantage of his newfound freedom.
“We went out there and created a hell of a racket this weekend,” he said. “I just built a M1A1 Thompson and an Mp44, Sturmgewehr. We had a great time. I’m happy.”