Public: ‘Indoor ranges are the future’

Majority of citizens speak in favor of indoor gun ranges

Posted 2/12/20

At a public hearing held at the Fort Worden Commons on Feb. 10, the majority of the citizens who spoke called for all future gun ranges in Jefferson County to be indoor only.

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Public: ‘Indoor ranges are the future’

Majority of citizens speak in favor of indoor gun ranges

Posted

At a public hearing held at the Fort Worden Commons on Feb. 10, the majority of the citizens who spoke called for all future gun ranges in Jefferson County to be indoor only.

Thirty-two members of the public spoke in favor of the county’s proposed regulations to relegate all future shooting ranges indoors, while eight people called for fewer regulations, allowing for outdoor gun ranges to be built in the county.

Joe D’Amico, owner of Fort Discovery and Security Services Northwest, who sparked the shooting range debate in 2018 after he proposed building an outdoor shooting facility on his property near Tarboo Lake, did not speak at the hearing. None of his company’s representatives spoke in public about the county’s proposed regulations.

“Indoor shooting ranges are the future,” said Riley Parker, who was a member of the committee that helped the Board of County Commissioners draft two ordinances regulating the scope and scale of all future shooting ranges in the county.

Parker, who sat on the committee in the summer of 2018, was quoting Clark Vargas, a shooting range engineer who was hired to help the county draft ordinances that would be fair to both gun owners who need to practice firearm safety and target shooting, but also to residents of Jefferson County who want to live, work and farm in peace and quiet.

“‘They make good neighbors and they are easy to site,’” quoted Parker, noting that after a two-year debate on how to site ranges in the county, the discussion had finally made a full circle: shooting ranges should be indoors.

Right now, the only shooting range in the county is the Jefferson County Sportsmen’s Association, built just outside Port Townsend city limits on county property. This shooting range is an outdoor range, where hunters practice long-range target practice and local law enforcement trains on a regular basis. The range has a contract with the county through 2040, and commissioners plan to “grandfather” the range into any new regulations.

Despite the majority of the public comments being in favor of indoor ranges, some spoke about the need for additional outdoor shooting ranges for target practice and firearm safety training.

“Indoor shooting ranges may have a significant value, but outdoor shooting ranges are not the threat people imagine them to be,” said John Ebner, a Range Safety Officer at the Jefferson County Sportsmen’s Association.

The county’s original commercial shooting range rules did not include regulations to keep ranges indoor-only. These rules were drafted by the committee Parker sat on in August 2018 and approved by commissioners in December 2018. They were challenged by a citizen group, and the state’s Growth Management Hearing Board struck down the ordinances in September 2019 because they did not comply with the Growth Management Act.

Now the county must rewrite the ordinances and deliver them to the state board by March 2 to show they are in compliance.

As part of the process, the ordinances went through the county’s appointed planning commission, which recommended a big change to the original rules: no more outdoor shooting ranges.

These are the recommendations the majority of the public agreed with at a hearing that lasted two hours on Feb. 10. Commissioners will now consider all the comments, both spoken and written, as they begin their deliberations. They are expected to begin public deliberation on the ordinances on Feb. 18 during their regular business meeting (moved to Tuesday because of President’s Day).

While they must make a decision on whether ranges should be strictly indoors, they must also balance several legal battles they are facing.

D’Amico filed a legal brief in the Court of Appeals in May 2019 questioning the legal validity of the county’s original ordinance restricting the operations of gun ranges, particularly limiting the time law enforcement and the military can shoot.

Meanwhile, the county is also appealing the Growth Management Hearings Board decision. The county’s legal team has a telephone hearing with the Growth Management Hearings Board on April 14.

The Tarboo Ridge Coalition, who filed the initial appeal with the board, said the appeal could be settled if the county enacts the indoor-only regulations not just on commercial shooting facilities, but also non-commercial shooting facilities.

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