We have followed a long line of hunting accidents and buck fever cases which are becoming more and more common as housing areas expand into rural areas (here and here). Now in Edinburg, Texas, police have taken two hunters into custody on suspicion of firing the stray bullets that cut down two middle school students at Harwell Middle School.
The two students were trying out for the basketball team when they were hit by the bullets. One boy is in critical condition and another is in stable condition. One bullet lodged in an organ of a 14-year-old boy and another 13-year-old student have a serious but less threatening wound.
After the shooting, a police helicopter found one man nearby with a .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle and then police found two other hunters on the nearby ranch toting .30-caliber rifles.
What I found most interesting is that there are two “hunting pastures” near to the school, which is in a heavily wooded area. The surrounding farms were being leased to deer hunters. Obviously, if responsible, these hunters should be held accountable. All states limit the firing of hunting rifles within a set distance from a dwelling or a school. However, I am most interested in the responsibility of the city and the school in allowing hunting to occur close of a school in a heavily wooded area. This strikes me as facially negligent and a lawsuit might serve a useful purpose to push schools and cities to be more proactive in protecting children. What is astonishing is that we constantly hear of absurd cases of zero tolerance for drug or play guns in school. Yet, here is a school that has children playing outside next to hunting pastures where hunters are firing high-powered rifles. The school could have sought to bar hunting or erect protective walls around the playground — or even insist on closing the school — rather than run the risk of such injuries to children.
A negligence case against the city or school will face some challenges. There is the proximate causation issues related to hunters who allegedly violated criminal and regulatory rules in firing toward the school. However, the negligence is based on the need to anticipate such wild shots. In Texas, someone convicted of any sexual crimes cannot live within a significant distance from a school but hunters are apparently shoot at deer around its perimeter. Clearly someone had to hear shots in the hunting areas before this tragedy if these areas have been used for hunting previously. The most direct liability falls on the hunters for negligence. However, while I assumed that these shots violate state law (and thus could constitute negligence per se), I have had a difficult time finding the specific rules often found in states limiting hunting near homes and schools. Indeed, what is interesting is the relative lack of state limitations stated with regard to hunting near school in the state regulations. Indeed, the rules refer to county rules but I could not find any specific hunting rules in Hidalgo County, Texas.
Source: Brownsville Herald as first seen on Reddit.
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