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Seabeck gun club trial continues into third week

Entering the third week of Kitsap County’s nuisance case against the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club, witnesses continued to provide testimony in Pierce County Superior Court on what they believe the dangers of the shooting club’s operations are.

Nine neighbors to the range submitted written declarations last year stating their reasons for the nuisance or concern for their safety because of the nearby shooting range along the Seabeck Highway. Two were a married couple with separate declarations describing the same incident of what they concluded was a stray bullet that struck their garage door.

After years of noise and safety complaints from neighbors of the gun club, Kitsap County Prosecutor Russell Hauge filed the lawsuit against the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club in September 2010.

According to state law, “every act unlawfully done and every omission to perform a duty” that will “annoy, injure or endanger the safety, health, comfort, or repose of any considerable number of persons” is considered a public nuisance.

Gary Koon, a former reserve officer with the Marine Corps gave fact and expert testimony last Thursday. He and his family have been living in the Whisper Ridge residential area for 2.5 years.

Koon, with the help of an expert from Fort Lewis, created a “surface danger zone” map to determine how far ricocheted bullets could travel from the Seabeck gun club. These types of maps are consistently defined and used by Marine and Army troops, Koon said. He added that they are based on physics — on the angle of impact on the target. According to Koon’s map, a .50-caliber weapon could shoot across Dyes Inlet.

“It’s appropriate to apply military SDZs to a civilian range,” Koon said.

During cross-examination Koon said the noise from the range is not constant throughout the day but that they can “count on it” a couple of times a day. He said he had not taken any decibel readings of the noise. The noise wasn’t loud enough for him to want to sell his home, he said.

Koon testified that usina a metal detector, he had found several stray bullets outside of the range.

When Brian Chenoweth, the gun club’s attorney, asked Koon why he didn’t alert the club of his safety concerns of stray bullets leaving the range, he responded, “I’m not sure why.”

Arnold Teves, Jr., the CEO of the Firearms Academy of Hawaii based in Poulsbo, provided testimony last Thursday as well.

From late 2004 to spring 2010, the academy used the Seabeck range to provide shooting training for Navy personnel. Many other ranges were examined before selecting the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club, he said.

“This was the only one that met all the safety regulations,” Teves said.

Teves’ testimony was only to the club’s pistol range because that was the only one that the group used. He is also a member of the club.

James Reynolds, a member of the Poulsbo Sportsman Club, also provided testimony last week. The shooting range is a half mile north of Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor’s main gate.

A month ago, one neighbor to the north complained of noise after a few trees had been cut down. He said for the most part, the club’s relationship with the neighbors is good.

The baffles at the Poulsbo club are set at 7 feet high, he said. The club is a National Rifle Association-affiliated club, which means they have NRA insurance, he added.

The trial began Sept. 28 and the county’s witnesses and experts have been giving testimony for more than two weeks. Marcus Carter, Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club’s executive officer, took the stand and began giving his testimony Tuesday. The trial was originally expected to last two weeks.

“We believe in quality of evidence than quantity,” said Carter. He added that it is “very possible” that the trial could be wrapped up by Wednesday.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Susan Serko may visit the range during trial although no date is set and a visit depends on how trial progresses, Carter said.

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