DOES YOUR CITY HAVE A PRIVATE SPORT SHOOTING RANGE?
If so, you will want to carefully review the provisions of S.B. 766 (and its companion bill, H.B. 1595). Certain legislators would like to remove municipal authority over sport shooting ranges. S.B. 766 would: (1) prohibit a city from bringing suit against a sport shooting range or the owners or operators of a sport shooting range, or the owners of real property on which a sport shooting range is operated, for the lawful discharge of firearms on the sport shooting range; (2) prohibit a city from regulating the discharge of a firearm at a sport shooting range; and (3) provide that a city may bring an action against a sport shooting range, or the owners or operators of a sport shooting range, or the owners of real property on which a sport shooting range is operating, for injunctive relief to enforce a valid ordinance, statute, or regulation, or to require a sport shooting range to comply with generally accepted standards followed in the sport shooting range industry in Texas at the time of the sport shooting range’s construction, if the sport shooting range is within the city’s limits and began operation after September 1, 2011.
At a March 7 hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Affairs, the author of S.B. 766 explained the need for the bill to deal with “outcry from sport shooting range owners to end legal harassment that has gone hand in hand with our increasing urbanization.” It appears that the “outcry” may be over municipal regulations relating to noise mitigation and hours of operation. In addition, the author and a witness who testified on behalf of the Texas State Rifle Association (TSRA) commented that – in a state full of concealed handgun license holders – sport shooting ranges in city limits are essential so that people don’t carry concealed handguns without enough practice. The TSRA representative mentioned several cities by name as being the reason for the bill, including the cities of Waco, Valley Mills, Amarillo, Beaumont, Garland, Austin, and Leander.
“Increasing urbanization” of this state is a fact that is not going to go away. Most city officials – regardless of their position on guns or shooting ranges – would agree that decisions about the welfare and safety of city residents are best made by the city council. League staff testified to that fact at the hearing.
S.B. 766 is reminiscent of legislation that passed in 2005 prohibiting a city from regulating the discharge of firearms or other weapons outside its city limits or in an area annexed by the city after September 1, 1981, if the firearm or other weapon is: (1) a shotgun, air rifle or pistol, BB gun, or bow and arrow that is discharged on a tract of land of ten acres or more; (2) a center fire or rim fire rifle or pistol of any caliber that is discharged on a tract of land fifty acres or more.
Obviously, the 2005 legislature did not believe that city officials know how to act in the interests of their citizens. S.B. 766 was voted out of the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee on March 14. If your city regulates sport shooting ranges, and wishes to retain that authority, please contact your state legislators and let them know of your concerns with the bill.