Bill protects existing shooting ranges

OLYMPIA — The state House of Representatives approved legislation Monday protecting existing shooting ranges from nuisance complaints. State Rep. Dean Takko, the prime sponsor of the legislation, said he’s optimistic about its chances in the state Senate, but will be leaning on friends in the Senate to try to carry it forward.

Takko, D-Longview, said he was able to restore the original protections in the bill after it was watered down in committee.

“When it came out of committee, they neutered it so that it didn’t offer hardly any protections at all,” Takko said, adding that he was able to work with committee members to re-write portions of the bill into a new amendment that satisfied everybody.

The old legislation would have just allowed shooting ranges to use an “affirmative defense” when facing lawsuits. Takko’s new version, which was approved by the House on a 93-5 vote, gives shooting ranges immunity from civil and criminal liability for violations of noise control laws or ordinances and immunity from nuisance actions based on noise pollution.

The bill specifically states that negligence lawsuits could still move forward against shooting ranges based on the operation of the range or a person’s use of the range. For instance, Takko said a negligence lawsuit against a shooting range in Kitsap County would not be impacted by the bill. The legislation also allows local governments to prohibit or regulate new shooting ranges.

A press release from Takko’s office said the legislation was the equivalent of a “valentine for the safe-and-sane gun crowd.”

“Hunters and sport shooters need safe places to practice and to participate in firearms-safety courses,” Takko said. “What do you think is going to happen if we close the sport-shooting ranges that have been operating as good and safe neighbors for years?” he asked rhetorically. “What’s going to happen is that we’ll push a lot of people to unsafe locations.”

Takko said that there will always be people that go into the woods just to shoot, but there would be even more if shooting ranges shut down. He noted that law enforcement support was critical in getting the measure approved.

The measure is House Bill 1508, which was also co-sponsored by state Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim.