County commissioners vote to regulate shooting in Anderson Acres

    Moore County Attorney Scott Higginbotham discusses legal issues regarding the regulation of shooting in Anderson Acres during a meeting of residents and commissioners. Moore County Commissioner Dee Vaughan looks on. (Courtesy: Moore News-Press)

    After hearing from residents and discussing the issue during a regular meeting of the commissioners' court, a listening meeting, and a special public hearing, Moore County Commissioners voted in a special commissioners' court held in conjunction with the public hearing on Nov. 26 to issue an order regulating the discharge of firearms in Anderson Acres, an unincorporated subdivision west of Dumas. The order was passed pending some additional clarifications in the language of the order by Moore County Attorney Scott Higginbotham dealing with the shooting of predatory and other animals not protected by the order.

    As passed by the commissioners, the order prohibits the discharge of centerfire, rimfire, or muzzle-loading rifles and handguns of .17 caliber and larger on lots of less than 10 contiguous acres in the Anderson Acres Subdivision, Units 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, if the firearm is discharged in the direction of an individual, habitation, or vehicle as described and defined in Texas Penal Code Section 22.05. The order also prohibits firing in the direction of livestock on immediately adjacent property, and it prohibits firing a weapon, if any projectile from that weapon would cross a property line in violation of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code Section 62.0121.

    According to Higginbotham, because the order applies civil instead of criminal law to the situation in Anderson Acres, it will simplify some of the enforcement problems that the Moore County Sheriff's Office has faced when trying to enforce existing criminal laws regulating shooting in the area. Under criminal law, sheriff's deputies had to determine who pulled the trigger of a weapon that's bullet crossed a property line, something that in most cases proved impossible to do. With the civil order in place, a neighbor whose property was violated by a bullet would have the right to apply for an injunction prohibiting all shooting from a specific property, without having to determine who pulled the trigger of the offending weapon. The property owner would be held responsible for shots coming from his property. The order does not cover the use of shotguns.

    The passing of the order represents something of a compromise, worked out with great effort by county commissioners and Moore County Judge Rowdy Rhoades, with the assistance of Higginbotham. Dee Vaughan, commissioner precinct three, in whose precinct Anderson Acres lies, kept the discussion civil and steered residents towards a solution that all could live with during the listening meeting and public hearing. Rhoades kept tempers in check and began steering residents towards a compromise during the initial commissioners' court meeting, when a group of residents from Anderson Acres, led by resident Juan Najera, approached commissioners with a petition requesting a ban on shooting in Anderson Acres -- as reported in the Nov. 17-18 edition of the News-Press. Their complaint was primarily centered on the actions of one of their neighbors. Louis Leven had built an earthen berm and created his own private shooting range. Some of his neighbors complained about the noise from incessant shooting and the discharge of an explosive substance called Tannerite -- a legal, binary explosive set off by being struck by a high-powered bullet. They also complained about stray bullets crossing their property. Najera, whose house lies in the line of fire behind Leven's berm, said a bullet had struck his workshop. The issues were complicated and the emotions were high throughout the process. Many residents during the listening meeting expressed frustration that they would be expected to give up an activity (shooting) they enjoyed -- and felt they carried out responsibly -- while, at the same time, they wanted to be safe on their own property.

    Higginbotham suggested to commissioners that they take the route of an order and that they seek a compromise solution regulating shooting rather than an outright ban. In the end, Leven and his neighbors agreed to give up discharging Tannerite completely. (Higginbotham said Tannerite could not be regulated or prohibited by the commissioners.) There was general agreement on the essential elements of the order. Higginbotham said it will take him about a week to complete the final revision of the language of the order.

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