Hearing about Noonday gun range set for February

NOONDAY (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - A civil case pitting rural homeowners against a neighboring gun range will be heard by a three-judge panel next month.

A temporary injunction was granted on June 20 to prevent High Noon Gun Range in Noonday from operating until the results of the trial determine the case. The hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Feb. 14 inside the first floor courtroom of the Cotton Belt Building.

In the temporary injunction, District 241 Judge Jack Skeen deemed the range a danger to nearby residents.

Testimony and observations by two range experts "provide further support for the conclusion that the range presents a clear and present danger to the community," the injunction read.

The gun range is on County Road 1108 near Noonday. The range's 200-yard rifle range is 300 yards from Summer Hill subdivision. More than 50 homes dot the countryside within 1,000 yards of the range. One home, which belongs to a plaintiff in the case, David Ball, is 700 feet downrange from rifle targets.

The subdivision was developed years ago before the range opened in January 2011.

Plaintiffs cite dangers from stray bullets, noise and property value losses as the reason for the suit.

In Texas, civil and even criminal law sides with gun range owners.

"A government official may not seek civil or criminal penalty against sport shooting ranges, businesses, private clubs or associations operating in an area where firearms can be used for recreational, target or self-defense, if no applicable noise ordinances, order or rules exist," according to Texas Local Government Code.

Cities can regulate noise within its limits, but the range lies within the unincorporated area of the county, outside city jurisdictions where regulation is very limited.

According to state law, there are no restrictions on range construction beyond the state's Health and Safety Code, which states, "An owner of an outdoor shooting range shall construct and maintain the range according to standards that are at least as stringent as the standards printed in the National Rifle Association range manual."

But a Texas Attorney General's opinion regarding the Health and Safety Code statute determined it was "an invalid attempt to confer legislative authority on a private entity" and was therefore unconstitutional.

Ball and other plaintiffs have refused comment on the case. High Noon owner Don Layton said he expects a favorable outcome if the judges consider the law. The case could set a precedent for other rural gun ranges.

He said he believes the plaintiffs have "dragged (the case) out" hoping the range would fold from monetary losses. However, the National Rifle Association has paid Layton's attorney fees.


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