The right to keep and bear arms is almost sacred in Texas. So is the right of a citizen to protect his home. But unfortunately for all of us, the state of Texas set up a legal shootout between those two rights.
Mike Domin moved to Rowlett from New Jersey. He thought it would be a better place to raise his kids. Now, he is loading his legal ammunition and preparing to fight.
On a typical Saturday morning, it sounds like a war zone in Garland. Gun enthusiasts line up to take a shot at the Garland Public Shooting Range. But now neighbor Mike Domin is taking aim at the gun range after he claims he became a target.
Domin was rushed to the hospital last summer after a bullet hit him in the back.
"I was on my backhoe digging a trench for the pool and felt a wap in my back," he said.
Domin spent 10 days in the hospital, six in intensive care.
"It was a lacerated pancreas and a nicked lung muscle," he continued.
Domin believes a stray bullet from the range struck him. His medical bills exceeded t$200,000. As he fought for his life, he never imagined another battle was just beginning.
Turns out the gun range did not have any liability insurance at the time of the shooting even though a state law states, the owner of a range shall purchase and maintain coverage of at least $500,000 for bodily injuries or death.
"It is just not right that the guy could run a gun range without insurance," Domin said. "There is no one to monitor he has insurance."
FOX 4 went to the Texas Department of Insurance but was told that state agency has no power to enforce insurance laws in Texas. That responsibility is up to the Texas Attorney General. The AG referred questions right back to the Department of Insurance.
"That seems patently wrong to me," said Rep. Lon Burnam of Ft. Worth.
Burnam sits on the Public Safety Committee in the Texas legislature.
"If you don't have an enforcement mechanism and you don't have someone responsible for enforcing it, then it is worth the paper it is written on," Burman said.
The Garland Public Shooting Range sits on about 26 acres right off Pleasant Valley Road. It was built back in 1969, long before the residential neighborhood sprouted up all around it.
Looking at a satellite map, it shows it is almost a straight line between the firing line and Domin's backyard. The distance is about 1 to 1.2 miles.
Responding to Domin's lawsuit, range owner James Day stated he believed it would be impossible for a bullet to travel that far and cause injury. He believes the bullet came from a neighboring property.
Rowlett police investigated the shooting and reported, "It's the investigators opinion that the round that struck Domin originated from a weapon fired from the range."
And a licensed engineer and gun expert, hired by Domin, said the types of firearms used there can travel up to 2.5 miles.
It also said there is evidence from photos that "intentional shooting at off site targets is taking place"…"such as power lines, guidelines and birds."
Domin is convinced that is how a bullet made its way to his home.
"They are shooting up in the air at power lines. If they miss, the bullets come this way," he said.
Domin's expert said the range poses "an unacceptable safety hazard …due to errant or stray bullets."
Rowlett police never filed any criminal charges. They could never determine who fired the shot.
There was a state law requiring range owners to meet the National Rifle Association standards but the Texas AG ruled it unconstitutional stating a private entity could not set state standards. A new law took affect in September but it does not make the rules tougher. The author stated that some cities and residents found ranges undesirable and were trying to regulate or shut them down. The new law strips a local government of its control over a local range.
"I was a bit surprised that the law is nearly that specific about what I can do as mayor," said Garland Mayor Ronald Jones.
"It is an area that probably does need to be regulated a little more tightly," added Councilman Doug Athas.
But the city's hands are tied with the new legislation.
"This is an area where there is a black hole," Athas said. "No one seems to have the authority."
A neighborhood survey shows one man claimed he was scraped in the arm with a stray bullet while riding his bike. He has since moved to California. Another found shell casings in his yard.
Rowlett resident Ladeitra Adkins worries about property values.
"I don't think I will be able to sell it right now," Adkins said. "They should probably just be shut down. They should probably have to leave. That is the solution, I think. We should not have to leave.
Domin said he plans to move. He feels like he's living in the wild, Wild West.
After the shooting, he said another bullet penetrated his roof. Now he won't even allow his kids to play outside.
"It is extremely difficult," he said. "Why should I just roll over and go away when this could happen to someone else. I want to see some kind of results. I won't quit."
Rep. Burnam promises to look into the insurance issue.
KDFW FOX 4
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