Neighbors say gun club a threat to their safety — to say nothing of their peace and quiet
By KAITLIN STROHSCHEIN
Port Orchard Independent Reporter
May 11, 2011 · Updated 4:32 PM
The Kitsap County commissioners need to muzzle the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club.
That was the message from about 30 members of a neighborhood group that attended the commissioner’s meeting on Monday.
“It frequently feels as though we live in a war zone, and it’s only a matter of time until someone in our community falls victim to a random, stray bullet,” wrote Ian and Bonnie Becke in a letter to Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido.
It’s “a life-and-death situation” said Libby Correll, a group leader, at the commissioner’s meeting Monday.
“My husband and I have a wonderful 19-month-old granddaughter who loves to play outside,” she said. “We’re afraid for her life every time we take her out in our yard to play.”
The Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office has taken up the neighborhood group’s cause and plans to bring civil action against the gun club in Pierce County Superior Court, if a decision can’t be reached through mediation.
“The club is dedicated to coming up with a win-win situation for everyone,” said Marcus Carter, the executive officer of the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club.
Club leaders will meet with county representatives county in early June for their second round of mediation.
If they fail to come up with a solution, then the issue will go to trial.
“As it stands, right now, the trial is set for Aug. 9,” said Carter.
Safety is a high priority for the club, he insisted.
There’s no evidence to suggest that stray bullets showing up in the neighborhood came from the club, he said, and bullets could just as easily, be coming from the surrounding area.
“It is possible for a projectile to leave the facility,” Carter said, but the gun club members are “very proud” of their safety record.
And if people don’t like living next to a gun range, then they shouldn’t have moved next door to one in the first place.
The club was established in the community on Nov. 11, 1926.
Since it was legal before, it’s still legal, Carter says, and there’s no need to leave now.
Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge has taken a different view.
He claims the club formerly met land-use codes but has grown to the point that it no longer does.
“The club has dramatically changed its facilities and its uses of the range,” according to a note on the prosecutor’s website, “but the club has refused to apply for land-use, building or site-development permits or to undergo any public-review process.”
The prosecutor and gun club have debated the issue for several months, which is too slow for the neighborhood group.
“We appreciate the things you’re doing,” Correll said to the commissioners, “but what do we do in the meantime? Dodge bullets? Wear earplugs? Fear for our safety?”
Several neighbors have had close encounters, she claimed. “Six houses in my neighborhood have been hit by stray bullets.”
“We really don’t think that the gun club people are crazy or evil,” said Molly Evans, one of the group’s leaders. “We just want them to have a safe place to shoot.”
Not only is the expanded gun club dangerous, Correll said, it’s also extremely annoying.
“The noise is sometimes unbearable from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m.,” she said.
“The peace and tranquility of our neighborhood has been destroyed by the daily sounds of gunfire, both large and small caliber, starting early in the morning, and continuing well after dark,” the Beckes wrote.
“This barrage is worse on weekends and certain holidays,” they added, “and has created a stressful and unpleasant experience for us and visiting friends and relatives.”
Several neighbors said they would love to move, but feel trapped because the gun club’s expansion has lowered their property value.
“(A) comment I’ve heard is, ‘If you don’t like it, move away,’” Evans said. “Aside from the wrongness of this, I can’t.
“My property value has nose-dived because of KRCC’s current operations,” she said. “If a prospective home buyer didn’t happen to be looking at my house during a war-zone episode, which isn’t likely, I’d still have to disclose the danger and atmosphere we live with.”
They hope the county’s commissioners will force that to change.
“Our group has formed an LLC and engaged a lawyer,” Correll said, “but we are very upset that we have to do these things when we elected you to protect us.”
“I just hope that this summer isn’t the summer when we run out of luck and a close call becomes a hit,” Evans said.