Gun range neighbors now enjoy ‘quiet Mondays’

Posted 7/10/19

Those who live near the Jefferson County Sportsmen’s Association—currently the only operating gun range in the county—now have one day of quiet each week.

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Gun range neighbors now enjoy ‘quiet Mondays’

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Those who live near the Jefferson County Sportsmen’s Association—currently the only operating gun range in the county—now have one day of quiet each week.

In June, county commissioners renegotiated and approved a 20-year license and operating agreement with JCSA. The new agreement proposed a new set of operating hours for the range that resulted in a 27% reduction in weekly operating hours. This includes a quiet Monday every week, one quiet Sunday per month (the last Sunday of the month) and Tuesday through Friday hours were reduced by two hours per day. Now the range is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays through Fridays, instead of 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The agreement also stated that JCSA will not allow units of the armed forces to use the facility without prior written approval from the county administrator, Philip Morley. It also prohibits expansion of the facility without the county’s written permission.

The renegotiation of the operating agreement came after county commissioners approved an ordinance regulating commercial shooting facilities in Jefferson County in response to neighbor complaints about organized and disorganized shooting. The ordinance required new shooting facilities to get operating permits.

County commissioners had also received complaints from neighbors about the amount of noise coming from the range.

Back at the start of the year, commissioner David Sullivan expressed his desire to update the agreement in response to complaints from citizen Tom Parks, who lives near the Sportsmen’s Association gun range located on county property on Jacob Miller Road. Parks said shooting noises had increased at the facility, and that the shooting was occurring after hours. He compiled a petition of signatures from other neighbors who agreed the noise was too much.

“We finished some of the work we were doing about new gun ranges, but we have our own gun range to deal with,” Sullivan said. “We are the landlord and we can negotiate changes in our contractual agreement … We have been strong supporters of the Sportsmen’s Association in the past, but, as landlords, we need them to listen to the neighbors.”

To deal with neighborhood complaints, JCSA applied for a Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office grant under its Firearms and Archery Recreation Program to make improvements to safety at the range and to work on sound abatement.

JCSA was first opened in 1962 and has since been operating shooting sport activities including Trap Shooting, Handgun, Rifle and Archery. Some of their members say that the range, which is located on Gun Club Road off of Jacob Miller, was there long before the neighbors who complain about noise.

Because of state laws on firearms, the county is not permitted to regulate gun noise in their noise ordinance, which regulates nuisance noises such as loud music or car horns.

Still, the JCSA was willing to negotiate their hours to create “predictable times of silence” for their neighbors.

“There is no ordinance against gunfire and there is no state law against gunfire,” said John Minor, treasurer at the JCSA. “But as a good neighbor we try to work with them.”

But limiting hours comes at a cost to the range, which is operated as a nonprofit and relies on volunteers and membership dues to pay for operating costs.

According to their website, the range’s membership had grown to over 700 primary members in 2019. The new hours have cost them a chunk of that membership, Minor said.

“We lost a few members,” he said. “I hope once everything is settled the people will start coming back. We did the best we could for the range. The county did the best they could for the county. We all came to an agreement.”

Commissioners hoped to find a balance between keeping the range successfully open for safe recreational shooting and law enforcement training, while also preserving times of quiet for neighbors.

Commissioner Sullivan was not fully satisfied with the final agreement when the Board voted on June 17, hoping for even more quiet time. But commissioners Kate Dean and Greg Brotherton agreed that the negotiation was a good compromise, and it was passed in a unanimous vote.

For Tom Parks, who has been providing public comment weekly on the shooting noises, the day of rest is a respite from what he said was a constant nuisance.

At the commissioners meeting on July 8 he told commissioners of his plan to go back home and work on his car’s engine.

“I’m going to do it in the silence of no gunfire,” he said, adding, “Today only.”

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