Lawsuit sets up test of Texas gun range law

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Associated Press

Posted on March 25, 2013 at 5:03 PM

KAUFMAN, Texas (AP) — An Army Ranger is relying on an as-yet-untested Texas law to challenge a lawsuit that has shut down his gun range in Kaufman County citing safety concerns.

Adam Morgan, a sniper who completed tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, opened the range on 100 acres of land in Kaufman County, about 33 miles southeast of Dallas, but neighbors complained. The county's district attorney said residents near the range were at "immediate risk" and obtained a temporary injunction that stopped Morgan from operating the business.

Morgan, 30, told The Dallas Morning News (http://dallasne.ws/101DlSq ) that he and his associates operated the range safely and that it harmed no one.

"Unnecessary fears are big in this case," he said.

But Raymond Bedrick, whose family raises cattle on land adjacent to Morgan's property, said the gun range presented a danger.

"One of my grandsons was out there one day and (he) called me about bullets whizzing around," Bedrick said. "I told him to get down off that tractor and go home. This is not the boondocks. We've got houses and subdivisions out here."

The case, initiated last May and set for trial in September, will be the first test of a 2-year-old state law backed by the National Rifle Association that is designed to prevent nuisance suits again gun ranges. The law states that civil litigation against gun ranges must involve personal injury, death, property damage or breach of contract. Suits can go forward if they are based on the premise that a range isn't operating within industry standards.

Records show that Kaufman County DA Mike McLelland hired Richard C. Whiting, a firing range design and safety expert from West Virginia. Whiting visited Morgan's range a year ago and observed that there were no earthen berms or other protective measures to keep bullets from straying off the property.

"To allow live fire on this particular site in its present condition constitutes a callous disregard for safety and may constitute gross negligence on the part of the owner(s)," Whiting wrote after his site visit. "Planning for the facility appears to be totally lacking. It appears that the owner(s) did nothing other than set up a few targets and start shooting."

Charles Cotton, the Houston-area lawyer who is representing Morgan, is an NRA board member and the gun-rights activist who wrote the language that became the law to limit lawsuits against gun ranges.

"I've seen a growing trend around the country of people filing frivolous lawsuits to shut down gun ranges," Cotton said. "The NRA is monitoring the case, but it's important to me personally because it was filed by a governmental entity with taxpayers' money behind it."

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Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com

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