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Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club in Seabeck to host 'Silencer Shoot'
Randy Bragge has been making gun silencers as a hobby for nearly a decade. But, he hasn't been able to use them because although Washington state law allows people to own the devices, sometimes called "suppressors," they are currently illegal to use.
But next month the devices will be legal.
"Whenever I travel to a different state for vacation or work, I'd pack up a case and use them there. That was the only opportunity I had to use them," Bragge said of his suppressors that he uses in other states where it is legal including Oregon and Montana.
Some prefer the term "suppressor," as "silencer" implies the device eliminates the sound of the the firearm discharging altogether.
In April, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a new law allowing the use of firearm suppressors. The new law takes effect July 22, and on July 23, the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club will host "Silencer Shoot" at its Seabeck range. Members will be able to use their suppressed firearms for the first time at the club and the public is also invited to attend free-of-charge and will be able to use suppressors under the supervision of club members.
"It was like having a muffler for a lawn mower but you couldn't put it on when you started the lawn mower," said Marcus Carter, executive officer of the club.
Bragge, 48, of Belfair, is happy with the new law because he had spent the past three years trying to change it. His efforts included writing emails to state lawmakers, meeting politicians and making an educational video on suppressors and sending it to legislators in Olympia.
"It's really nice that we're able to use a gun we can legally own," Bragge said. "It allows people to use them and not disturb their neighbors as much."
Safety is a priority at the range and Carter said people will still be required to wear hearing protection while shooting with suppressors.
In September, Kitsap County Prosecutor Russell Hauge filed a lawsuit against the gun club for alleged nuisances after neighbors of the range lodged noise and safety complaints. After two rounds of mediation between the two parties, a settlement has not been reached and the trial remains scheduled for August 9.
"We're hopeful that some settlement can be reached," Carter said last week. "But, we are preparing as though we're going to trial."
But, before the two-week trial in August, the club will focus on the upcoming "Silencer Shoot."
For Bragge, making his own suppressors has been a "fun project" where he uses either aluminum or steel to create the baffle and uses tubing for the body. It's a simple process that is similar to making a straight-pass car muffler, he said.
A suppressor can be attached to most types of firearms, Bragge said, adding that they don't work well on revolvers because of the gap between the barrel and cylinder.
"Just about anything else, they can be effective," he said.
Both the Kitsap County Sheriff's Office and Bremerton Police Department do not have plans to use suppressors nor do they have concerns that crime will heighten due to the legal use of them.
"I don't see it as something that will lead to a wave of crime involving firearms," said deputy Scott Wilson, spokesman for the Kitsap County Sheriff's Office. "If they had a sound suppressor prior to this law, they would use it anyway. Criminals don't pay attention to laws."
In law enforcement, suppressors are used more in a SWAT team than other departments, said Capt. Tom Wolfe of the Bremerton Police Department. He explained that a SWAT team is more likely to be in a situation where suppressors are needed if they have to enter a large complex and encounter dogs before gaining entrance.
Wolfe and Wilson both advised that suppressors do not function as they appear in Hollywood. Guns can never be completely silenced.
"It's not like in the movies. In real life, there's more noise involved," Wolfe said.
There are more than 30 other states that allow the legal use of suppressors on firearms. Wolfe said the police department has never received warnings from other agencies and doesn't think any new issues will arise because of the new law.
With the use of suppressors soon to be legal, Carter sees this as a time to educate people about its usage, but also notes that it is a personal preference on whether or not to use them.
"It's like people who own a Harley — some like straight pipes others like mufflers to reduce the noise," he said.