Gun owners, neighbors clash in Island County

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on November 26, 2012 at 7:44 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 26 at 9:25 PM

WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. - For Michael McInerney, home is on the range, shooting a gun, a way of life.

“I've been a target shooter since I was able to pick up a rifle,” he says, squeezing off a few rounds at a fresh target.

Outside city limits in Island County you can shoot just about anywhere, anytime. The same goes for hunting. It’s a way of life not everyone in this increasingly populated county is comfortable with.

“You do think about once in a while,” said Ken Webb, a relative newcomer to Whidbey Island after five years.

Like many here, Webb prefers gardening to guns. The shots he hears all the time are a little unnerving for his family.

“They're out here playing frisbee on my lawn. A stray bullet, that definitely concerns me,” he said.

Sweeping changes to gun laws are now being considered by county commissioners.  The issue started with a single gun owner who was shooting in his backyard. The property was deemed to be safe for shooting by sheriff’s deputies. Nevertheless, neighbors complained.

Now, homeowners and hunters are caught in the crossfire. Gun owners fear the original proposal by county commissioners is so broad it could severely restrict hunting, forbid gun owners from shooting on their own land and close long established gun clubs. All it would take is a majority of neighbors to complain to the council.

Ranges like the Holmes harbor Rod & Gun Club near Langley, which has been in business for nearly 80 years, would then have to defend their right to operate.

“I think there's a way to work with neighbors rather than passing an ordinance that affects so many of us, when basically we're looking at one individual and one group of homeowners that are objecting,” said McInerney, who serves as range master at the club.

The legislation's sponsor, Angie Homola tells KING 5 that commissioners are working on wording that would exempt existing, legal gun ranges and permitted hunting areas from the new law. A public hearing is expected in December.



 

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