Gun ranges provide an important service to the public and should be protected from people who’d rather have them closed than hear gunfire.
That was the message of supporters who asked Pierce County to protect ranges from possible lawsuits. They got what they wanted with the County Council’s recent approval of regulations safeguarding shooting ranges from anti-noise litigation as long as they’re meeting all other rules.
Now shooting ranges in unincorporated parts of the county can’t be the target of individuals or groups who want to take legal action to shut them down.
Existing ranges that can benefit from the protection include Upper Nisqually Sportsmen’s Club near Eatonville, Tacoma Sportsmen’s Club in the Frederickson area, Paul Bunyan Rifle and Sportsman Club on South Hill near Graham, and Sumner Sportsmen’s Association, which is located between Sumner and Orting. The ordinance also extends to the county Sheriff Department’s practice range near Roy.
The ordinance limits the hours for shooting to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. As long as that rule and other land-use regulations are being met, gun ranges will be spared from litigation by citizens who might object to the presence and noise of ranges as suburban growth puts people in closer proximity to them.
The council passed the ordinance during a meeting Aug. 13 in Orting. Before their vote, Jim Williams, vice chairman of Pierce County Sportsmen’s Council, told council members that the expense of the legal process if a lawsuit was filed would be enough to force a range to close. Ranges can’t afford to defend themselves in court, he said.
No such cases are pending in Pierce County, but there are some in Kitsap County that are threatening the shutdowns of ranges there, according to Williams.
Councilman Dan Roach said target practice would be forced into unscantioned, potentially dangerous locations if ranges close. It’s better for public safety to keep them open, he reasoned.
Councilwoman Joyce McDonald noted that clubs at the ranges offer firearm and hunter safety education.
The county is providing “very reasonabie protection” for the clubs, she said. “These clubs have been there for many years and served as good neighbors.”
No one at the meeting spoke against the ordinance. Others who spoke in support of it included Graham resident Matt Hamilton, who said he isn’t a gun club member but supports the benefits of ranges, such as the open space they provide for environmental purposes. He said a family of deer has been known to roam the Paul Bunyan facility.
McDonald and Roach were joined by council members Jim McCune and Doug Richardson in a unanimous vote for the ordinance. Three other council members were absent from the meeting, which was held at the Orting Lions Club hall in Roach’s District 3. Each council district hosts at least one council meeting per year.