In new law, country residents must hold their fire or face fine
Collin County: Officials ban shooting of weapons on most properties within subdivisions
08:36 PM CDT on Thursday, June 2, 2005
By ED HOUSEWRIGHT / The Dallas Morning News
A feud between two neighbors has prompted Collin County officials to restrict the shooting of firearms on small rural home sites.
[Click image for a larger version] JUAN GARCIA/DMN
Gene Bush of Collin County says her neighbor's target practice scared her and spooked her horse, Nifty.
Effective immediately, residents can be fined up to $500 for firing a weapon on their property if they live on less than 10 acres within a subdivision.
The impetus for the restriction, approved by county commissioners last week, was a complaint by an elderly woman in an unincorporated area near Wylie.
Gene Bush has called the Sheriff's Department several times to say that her next-door neighbor on County Road 434 had repeatedly been taking target practice in his yard, scaring her and spooking her horse.
"I sure didn't like it," said Mrs. Bush, who lives on two acres of land with a barn. "Nobody likes rapid, repeated gunfire when you don't know who's shooting or what direction they're shooting.
"There's the danger of a stray bullet, as well as of livestock jumping the fence and running onto the roadway or running over a small child playing in their yard."
She said that her neighbor, who also has two acres, began firing in his back yard in April and continued over the next few weeks, despite her complaints. Their homes straddle the eastern boundary of Wylie.
Her neighbor, Michael Christiana, said Mrs. Bush is exaggerating the number of times he fired and the disruption it caused. He said he shot at targets in front of an earthen berm 8 feet tall and 15 feet wide.
"It was really not a big issue at all," Mr. Christiana said.
He said he's angry that Mrs. Bush persuaded county commissioners to pass the gun restriction. He said he wasn't aware the item was on the commissioners' agenda for consideration.
"I think it's an infringement on my rights and something I will be looking into," Mr. Christiana said. "They passed it on the word of a lady with no corroborating evidence."
Maj. Charles Ruckel of the sheriff's department said that complaints about gunfire in rural areas are common.
"We probably get at least one complaint a day," he said. "This will help us. It'll give us something we can work with."
Gunfire is prohibited in cities, but no such restrictions have existed in unincorporated areas – until now.
It's about time, said Earl Newsom, deputy constable of Precinct 2, which includes the Wylie area. As the county grows, more people are living closer together in rural areas.
Platted subdivisions with small acreage are becoming more common, officials said. The new court order does not apply to people who live on less than 10 acres of land in isolated areas away from other homes.
"Collin County is not as rural as it used to be," said Mr. Newsom. "We simply can't do the things we did 20 years ago. It's just not a safe practice."
Some rural residents, however, may bristle at the shooting restriction, said Chief Deputy Rick Allen of the sheriff's department. Some move to the country so they can be free of city ordinances.
"I think there definitely could be a backlash from people not fully understanding the reason behind the [commissioners] court's passing of this particular law," Chief Allen said.
Officers, however, can decide on a case-by-case basis whether to cite a person for disobeying the order, he said. Violation is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $500 fine.
"If we feel like a neighbor is threatened – if we witness the discharge – then we'll certainly take the appropriate action," Chief Allen said. "At the same time, it gives us the discretion to determine that it's not a threat to the public, and we would just basically ... go on to the next call."
Mrs. Bush said she's grateful to commissioners for heeding her complaints and passing the order.
"I am so thankful that there are laws to protect people and their property," she said. "In a platted neighborhood, no one should be firing like that."
TEXAS LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE, CHAPTER 235, SUBCHAPTER B. FIREARMS
(Originally passed in 1989)
§ 235.021. SUBDIVISIONS COVERED BY SUBCHAPTER. This
subchapter applies only to a subdivision all or a part of which is
located in the unincorporated area of a county and for which a plat
is required to be prepared and filed under Chapter 232.
§ 235.022. AUTHORITY TO REGULATE. To promote the public
safety, the commissioners court of a county by order may prohibit or
otherwise regulate the discharge of firearms on lots that are 10
acres or smaller and are located in the unincorporated area of the
county in a subdivision.
§ 235.023. PROHIBITED REGULATIONS. This subchapter
does not authorize the commissioners court to regulate the
transfer, ownership, possession, or transportation of firearms and
does not authorize the court to require the registration of
§ 235.024. INJUNCTION. Any person is entitled to
appropriate injunctive relief to prevent a violation or threatened
violation of a prohibition or other regulation adopted under this
subchapter from continuing or occurring.
§ 235.025. CRIMINAL PENALTY. A person commits an
offense if the person intentionally or knowingly engages in conduct
that is a violation of a regulation adopted under this subchapter by
the commissioners court. An offense under this section is a Class C
misdemeanor. If it is shown on the trial of an offense under this
section that the person has previously been convicted of an offense
under this section, the offense is a Class B misdemeanor.