Injunction temporarily shuts down Noonday Gun Range

SMITH COUNTY (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - A temporary injunction has been granted to prevent High Noon Gun Range in Noonday from operating until the results of an Aug. 6 trial determines a case pitting landowner and Second Amendment rights against homeowner's rights.

On Monday, District 241 Judge Jack Skeen signed the injunction because he deemed the range a danger to nearby residents.

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

In a May 2011 story, the Tyler Morning Telegraph reported on High Noon Gun Range, its owner's rights as businessmen, the range's impact on surrounding property owners and the lack of oversight and homeowner protection within state and local laws.

The gun range is located 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, who was featured in the previous story, is 700 feet downrange from rifle targets.

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

In July 2011, the Smith County Appraisal District reduced values for more than a dozen properties near the range by 30 percent because of its expected affect on home sales in the area.

The case could have precedent-setting ramifications because the court will consider state laws with contradicting protections for residents, landowners and gun ranges. At question are safety, noise and property value protections for homeowners and Second Amendment and land usage rights for gun range owners.

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.

Defendant and range co-owner Don Layton said his facility is the safest in East Texas. Layton said safety modifications were made after a National Rifle Association range technician visited the site.

Opponents "act like (gun range members) don't have good sense," he said.

Layton's attorney, Greg Porter, disagreed with the court's decision based on state laws and planned on filing for emergency relief from the appellate court Wednesday. Porter said he is ready to take the case "as far as it goes."

"We're very protective of the Second Amendment."

Plaintiffs and their attorneys would not comment on the proceedings.

Ball, in the previous story, said his main concern is the safety of his three children.

Busy days on the range coincide with days his children want to play outside. His wife, Sarah, said living near the range was like living "in a war zone" in another Tyler Morning Telegraph story. In the story Mrs. Ball read a letter from her husband indicating his 9-year-old daughter has asked "Daddy, am I going to get shot?"
Ball said he was raised around guns and owns and shoots them, but he also knows people at shooting ranges are not always perfect.

"I lose sleep about it," he said in the story. "You just go about your daily business and hope the people at the range are using safety precautions."

Texas State Rifle Association Executive Director Steve Hall said state laws protect gun ranges and that the association will stand behind safely designed ranges. He said state laws protect ranges from "mad neighbor syndrome" and encroaching developers who view the range's rights as detrimental to profits.
Hall said he did not know the specifics of High Noon Gun Range's construction but that a facility should be properly designed and built to ensure no bullets escape.

"That comes with being a good neighbor," he said.

The injunction indicates the contrary.

"After hearing the testimony and evidence presented, the court is of the opinion that gun-fired bullets are leaving the confines of High Noon Shooting Range at grave risk to the surrounding community," the injunction read.

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