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Gun range ordinance on to commissioners
It’s not what either side seemed to want, but a proposed countywide gun range ordinance is headed to county commissioners for their consideration.
After more than two years in the making, the committee studying the issue signed off on an ordinance last week following a heated last committee meeting.
At issue was the noise component of the ordinance which had brought the committee to a stand still earlier this year. Last week, the committee voted four to one to submit the ordinance to commissioners without a noise component.
Marcus Carter, executive officer of the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club, was the lone committee member to vote against the ordinance. He cited that he thinks the ordinance violates the gun ranges’ rights.
The committee had discussed adopting a muzzle-energy restriction which included a time of day form of noise control. The committee also talked about a “good neighbor agreement” which could exempt gun ranges from time restrictions.
The muzzle-energy restrict was proposed by committee member Jim Sommerhous, and estimated muzzle-energy is based on the type of gun and bullets that are used in a firearm.
That suggestions surfaced after three gun clubs in the county, Poulsbo Sportsman Club, Bremerton Trap and Skeet Club and the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club, opposed a noise restriction that was based on a decibel limit.
The county had authorized a study to help determine what decibel limit would be appropriate. But when none of the gun clubs involved supported that way of evaluating noise produced by firearms, the study was cancelled.
Sommerhaus told the committee that muzzle energy can relate to noise level because the higher the muzzle energy, the louder the gun.
At last week’s committee meeting, representatives of the ranges and those from CK Safe and Quiet, decided to oppose the muzzle-energy regulation. CK Safe and Quiet said that they favor a decibel limit. Muzzle energy regulations would be hard to enforce, gun advocates said.
The committee also voted against the “good neighbor” exception, saying the language in the section was too vague and subjective.
So without specifics addressing gun noise, the proposed ordinance now goes before county commissioners during a work session, possibly this month or next. That will be followed by a public hearing where residents and concerned individuals can speak. The commission will then finalize the ordinance and vote whether to approve it.
Linda Streissguth, Kitsap County Commissioner, representing Central Kitsap, said Monday that commissioners had not yet been briefed on the ordinance by staff.
“The ordinance has not come forward to the commission yet and we have yet to be briefed on the recommendations coming from the citizen advisory group,” she said. “It is important to ensure citizens who have input are given that opportunity through the public hearing process and that the board remains open to their perspective.”
Terry Callison, spokesman for CK Safe and Quiet, said he was pleased the draft ordinance “has finally left the review committee and will soon be in the public realm.”
“Some of the delays in this more than two year process were unavoidable due to necessary research to resolve legal and technical issues,” Callison said. “However, far too much time was wasted due to the delaying tactics of the one range whose unlawful actions made the whole process of crafting an ordinance to safeguard the health, safety, and well-being of Kitsap citizens while at the same time protecting legitimate ranges necessary.”
He said the draft ordinance contains language that can meet the requirement for projectile containment within range boundaries, if that requirement is enforced. Noise mitigation requirements are lacking and must be addressed in the final ordinance to be approved by the county commissioners, he said.
“Language is included in the draft that will provide the framework to protect and preserve existing legitimate ranges that understand obligation and responsibility to the community and to the law as well as to their membership, while protecting the rights of surrounding communities from the unscrupulous, dishonest, or simply uninformed range operators,” he said.
He said CK Safe and Quiet looks forward to participating in the next stages of the ordinance “with even more public input, finishing a range operating permit ordinance that will both serve to protect and preserve lawful ranges and to protect the rights of communities around those ranges.”
Marcus Carter, of the KRRC, said he thinks the proposed ordinance does a disservice to all involved.
He said the KRRC had offered an alternative, the Range Protection Ordinance, and the committee wouldn’t even allow it to be discussed.
“There are plenty of laws in place currently that address many of the concerns that surfaced,” Carter said. “I don’t believe anything needs to be passed on the current ranges and they manner in which they operate.”
He referred to the fact that KRRC has a letter from 1993 that “grandfathers” its operation and he said the committee and the Department of Community Development failed to acknowledge that. Additionally he said he thinks the proposed ordinance violates state and federal law.
“It’s a dangerous thing,” he said. “I think it will spark another long and expensive legal battle that this community doesn’t need.”