Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club remains shut down

The Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club appeared in court last week to get its shuttered shooting range reopened.

Superior Court Judge Susan Serko last Friday remained by her original order to keep the Seabeck shooting range closed. It could reopen if a Washington State Court of Appeals decision says so. The club’s attorney had filed a motion to stay the judge’s order that shut down the range in February.

“As far as she’s concerned, the club would have to go somewhere else to get relief,” Marcus Carter, executive officer of the club, said Monday.

Carter said the club’s appeal to the court decision was filed and additional research is ongoing. He added that they are looking at “several issues” but primarily are focusing on what can be done to get the club operational again.

The next step would be to move for a stay within the appeals court, Carter said.

Serko ruled Feb. 9 that the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club is a public nuisance and ordered the club to not use its property as a shooting range until a Kitsap County conditional use permit is issued. The suit was brought by Kitsap County Prosecutor Russell Hauge in September 2010.

The club immediately shut down its shooting range, following the judge’s order, and has been doing maintenance and cleaning on site.

With the club being shut down to shooting since last month, people have had to find alternatives and some people are saying those alternatives are not in the best interest of the community.

Rob Potter, of Olalla, has been a member of the club for about three years. He spoke to the Board of County Commissioners during the public input period of the commissioners’ regular business meeting last Monday to voice his concerns regarding where people are supposed to go shoot with the club’s range being shut down.

“There’s a huge demand. Where are these people going to go? What’s the recommendation?” he asked the commissioners.

“I recommend folks follow the law,” said Commissioner Josh Brown, adding that the county is looking at working with the club to have it be able to reopen as a shooting range.

Potter said he believes people are going out into the woods, on the sides of roads and in yards to shoot now that the Seabeck club is closed.

“People will find a place whether it’s safe or not,” Potter said. “That’s a major concern.”

Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club currently has a membership of under 500 people but in the past, has had close to 1,000 members and a high of 1,200, Carter said.

Brown added that the Poulsbo Sportsman Club has been doing a good job at providing a safe environment for shooting. Members at the Poulsbo club say they have seen an increase in usage since Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club shut down.

Since the Seabeck club has closed, Doug O’Connor, president of the Poulsbo Sportsman Club, said their range usage increased by 30 to 60 percent in weekend “community” shooters — those who are not members and pay a daily fee. The Poulsbo club has 750 members, which is its capacity.  About 25 people are on a waiting list, O’Connor said.

“The increase is very large,” O’Connor said. “It’s not unexpected. We won’t let it get unmanageable.”

Some Poulsbo members have self-managed and turned away from the range on crowded days but the club hasn’t had to turn anyone away because of overcrowding, O’Connor said Monday. He added that to keep the lines safe, the club has added more range officers, tripling the number they have out on the weekends.

O’Connor agreed that safety is a concern and that there is no question that there are some people shooting out in the woods and could be putting others in jeopardy.

Carter said he has heard an increase in shooting in the woods near Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club’s range.

“The part that really hurts us is the thought that so many people are looking for firearm safety education and a safe place to shoot,” he said.

Potter, who competes in handgun competitions, said when the range was open, he would go and practice shooting about five days each week. Now, he is limited to going to where the competitions are held such as in Puyallup and Renton for shooting, but added that there is no training time available.

“It definitely puts a kink in things,” Potter said. “Right now everyone is on hold.”

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