Backyard gun range has Island County neighbors up in arms

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on December 10, 2012 at 7:48 PM

William Watanabe built his life around his love of shooting.

“I’ve been at it since I was a kid,” he said. “I love it. My kids love it. I bought this home because of it.”

Watanabe bought his Oak Harbor home on 5-1/2 acres of land, the minimum that allows for a homeowner to shoot on his own property. The problem is, his back yard is only 70 feet from the nearest neighbor, and just a few hundred feet from 180 others who live in the line of fire.

After a visit from sheriff’s deputies, Watanabe built a 9-foot tall backstop and a steel bullet box for safety. Neighbors, however, still complained, but he has no plans to stop shooting.

“It’s my right as a property owner in Washington. They’re trying to take that away,” he said.

Watanabe isn’t breaking any laws. In fact, there is hardly anything on the books restricting where and when you can shoot in unincorporated Island County.

That is what his neighbors are trying to change.

“Is it going to take a child getting killed to get us to change the law?” asks neighbor Jack Lyons. Lyons lives down range and is firing back. He’s pushing for a new gun ordinance that would allow neighborhoods to ask county commissioners for designation as a “no shooting zone” if that’s what the majority want.

“I think the 2nd amendment gives us the freedom to keep and bear arms. It doesn’t give us the right to shoot anywhere we want,” he said. 

Lyons is no anti-gun liberal. He’s a gun toting Navy vet and NRA member.  He says Island County’s population is growing and the law needs to change with it.

 “This isn’t the same place it was 20 or 30 years ago. This neighborhood isn’t the middle of nowhere,” said Lyons.   

Will Watanabe says being unable to shoot would make his property worthless to him and he’s willing to take this gunfight to court.

“I’ve worked too hard to let it go,” said the 31-year-old garbage collector. “I will not stop shooting. It’s my right.”

Island County commissioners have changed the original ordinance to protect legal gun ranges that already exist. They plan to discuss further changes on December 18.
 

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