On Tuesday, Pierce County became the first in the state to approve an ordinance that protects shooting ranges from potential lawsuits based on noise or nuisance complaints.
It's a debate that's played out in communities across the country, as suburban growth puts new neighborhoods closer and closer to shooting ranges.
The five ranges now protected in Pierce County include:
- The Tacoma Sportsman's Club
- Paul Bunyan Rifle and Sportsman's Club
- Sumner Sportsman's Association
- Upper Nisqually Sportsman's Club
- The Pierce County Sheriff's Department Practice Range
"It sounds like a great deal," said John Calhoun, who belongs to The Tacoma Sportsman's Club. "It was their choice to move near us, you know?"
He says his particular club hasn't yet come under fire from neighbors, but he and his fellow members have long prepared for that possibility, and say it's unfair, because the shooting range was there first.
"I mean, you move in next to a dairy farm and just because it stinks, you don't tell them to go away, do you?" said another gun club member, Bill Russell. "This club has been here for decades."
Pierce County Council member Dan Roach sponsored the legislation that essentially grandfathers in the five shooting ranges in the unincorporated part of the county.
He says he only received one email expressing concern about the proposal, and during Tuesday's meeting, not one person spoke out against it.
"I was surprised, because I expected to have a whole bunch in support and whole bunch against, but it ended up being pretty lopsided, there was a whole lot of support out there," he said.
The legislation approved in Pierce County has previously been considered on the state level, but never had the support it needed to pass.
Roach says Tuesday's vote in Pierce County sets a precedent, and admits it will be interesting to see whether other communities follow suit.
He says the reality is that this issue isn't going away, in Washington and across the country.
"People are moving out further and further to get houses in new neighborhoods, and its butting up against farms and gun ranges and everything else," he said. "So it's just constantly going to be a struggle I think, especially as population growth continues."