This is Part 2 of “Infringed: The Truth Behind the Attacks on Kitsap Rifle & Revolver Club.” Part 1 gave a very high-level view. Now it’s time to get slimy in the swamp. But first, who is the audience? Everyone. And while it is imperative that this series reaches the local residents, it is also important that this “playbook” for shutting down a shooting range, as so dubbed by neighboring Jefferson County, reach all Americans. On the surface, this decades-long history looks like a simple power-grab being resisted by gun enthusiasts. And that may be what it is to most of the politicians involved over the years. (The majority—but definitely not all—belong to the “big government” party. You know: “I know best how you should live your life, and I need more control to show you.”) But in reality it just comes down good, old-fashioned land developers and “useful idiots.” (That’s a real term coined by Lenin about his own followers, by the way.)
When the few remaining club members try to explain this saga to people verbally, it often turns into a three or four hour history lesson. People enter hearing this thinking it is just about a lawsuit. Eventually they figure out that the things they’ve been reading in the local newspaper for years are merely biased half-truths at best. The local Kitsap County government has a history of deceptive tactics when dealing with KRRC. But as you dig into learning this large, multi-plot story, one key thing to remember is who owned the Club’s land, and when.
KRRC sits on just over seventy-two beautiful acres in the western portion of Central Kitsap County, Washington. It is nestled about midway between the City of Bremerton and the unincorporated shopping hub known as Silverdale. It lies a few miles up the one main thoroughfare to the Hood Canal community of Seabeck. The club has existed since its founding on the Armistice Day anniversary of November 11, 1926 on land that was leased from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) until 2009. The land was sold to the Club in a tri-party deal that will be detailed later in the series. But as we’ve discovered in our lawsuits, terms like “grandfathered” and “historical use” are very important legal concepts. And so the history of our grandfathers is where we’ll start.
The Club has many records, from photos to match results to published articles, detailing the level of activity out on the property. And while most of the locals know that there is a large military shooting facility, Camp Wesley Harris, immediately to our south and east, most don’t know the truth about the history. We have copies of old newspaper articles which speak of the new camp being built “on the Kitsap Rifle & Revolver Club Range Preservation.”
And then there’s the January 1930 issue of American Rifleman. It has an article detailing that the Club hosted the military camp’s inaugural ceremony, complete with Marine, Navy, and Club shooting teams and a shooting match. The activities weren’t limited to just the match, the assembled Marine camp mockup, and various high-level speakers. The Marines demonstrated a mock battle, similar to events at the annual Camp Perry Infantry Combat Match, which included machine-gun fire and troop movements on display.
Most people just assume the Club sprang up around the Camp, but the opposite is true. KRRC has a history rich in shooting events that included all calibers and action types, including fully automatic weaponry and even cannons. The Club’s motto, found in the original 1926 Charter, is and has been “For Sport and National Defense.” The Club was founded eight years after the end of The War to End All Wars. Military-style training of civilians and active-duty was and is THE purpose this club exists.
So when did KRRC first discover something was afoot in the eyes of the county politicians? In 1993, current Executive Officer Marcus Carter was attending a community presentation by the Kitsap County Fair and Parks Department at a local junior high school. The topic of their presentation was their long-term countywide plan. He was reviewing a large map in their display, for the Kitsap Heritage Park. He noticed plans for the 1000+ acre park included KRRC’s property, but instead of the gun club, mountain bike and equine trails filled the space.
Carter clearly recalls being shocked by the proclamation of Parks planner Larry Cote. “Isn’t there a gun club here?” he asked Cote, pointing at the map without identifying himself as a club member.
“Don’t worry,” Cote said. “They’re being shut down.” This event was what alerted KRRC that all was not well in suburbia—the first “hairs on the neck” moment.
At about the same time, the County was proposing a ban on shooting throughout much of its borders. Alert gun owners were becoming increasingly alarmed at the elected officials’ direction. At a public hearing, more than 400 people signed up to testify on the proposed ordinance (50-C-1993). Of them, only two testified in favor—the rest were strongly opposed. Fearing the issue’s volatility, the Commissioners had several Sheriff Deputies standing at parade rest behind them. With their backdrop, Commission Win Granlund declared, “It doesn’t matter what you each want here. In one form or another, we will pass this ordinance.
In order to appease some concerns, the County issued a formal letter acknowledging the historical, “grandfathered” status of four ranges in Kitsap County: Kingston Junior Marksman, Sheridan Park, Poulsbo Sportsman’s Club, and KRRC. It’s critical to note that the first two no longer exist due to government interference and direct action.
After lengthy interaction and planning with the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, the Navy, and the local National Guard units, KRRC presented County Commissioner Billie Eder with the first version of a proposed improvement plan for the property, arguing that a shooting park would be a perfect and obvious fit for the “heritage” park. That same month, Fair and Parks Director Cindy Holtz told the Club that they would be invited to participate in the interest group being formed to provide input on their plans to build the large park, now called the Newberry Hill Heritage Park.
In 1994, the Club sent a letter to the County Commissioners, calling them out for continuing the Parks Department’s plans without allowing for Club input. Director Holtz’s department presented a plan to the commissioners, which included relocating the club to an unknown location, on April 6, 1994. That plan was released publicly two days later, and KRRC had not once received the promised invite to participate in the discussion, even though Director Holtz was quoted in a newspaper article a month later saying the opposite.
After the Club members poured out their thoughts on the matter to the commissioners, the plan to force a move was shelved. But, both Parks Director Holtz and the three-member county commission made it clear that the Club’s proposal for improvement and expansion were not likely to happen, despite initial support from the state’s prior Commissioner of Public Lands and State Senators Tim Sheldon and Bob Oke.
In a letter dated February 4, 1995, the new Commissioner of Public Lands Jennifer M. Belcher informed state Senator Bob Oke, “I’m very excited about the possibilities this plan will offer.” She was referencing a strong presentation that had been made to her South Puget Sound Region Manager. It outlined the vision for the future—to build and Olympic level shooting facility literally in view of the Olympic Mountains—that the local county politicians just couldn’t seem to grasp. In addition to the heavily used short and long-range firing lines, the Club would develop additional shooting bays with tall berms on three or even four sides. They wanted to develop a 300 meter rifle line. There would be places for archery, air rifles, equine events and even hiking. All of this would draw in people to the area for competitions—people that needed hotel rooms and restaurants. The biggest hiccup at that moment with getting support from the state’s Land Commissioner was the timing. They were just beginning a two year comprehensive asset stewardship plan. The gears of change were going to be at a stand still for a bit.
But we possess several references to just a few months later in which the county made their intentions crystal clear.
A May 6, 1995 article from the Kitsap Newspapers Group showed that the county commissioners had officially asked the state to reconvey some of the land for their proposed park. Part of the land belonged to the forest board (which could be reconveyed); and 540 acres belonged to a school trust. That piece would have to be sold back. The county was attempting to trade other land with the state for that piece. Nowhere in their proposal to the state did they address how to deal with the current KRRC lease, which was in effect until 2001.
A July 5, 1995 article, again from KNG, county commissioner Matt Ryan stated he was unlikely to sway his two fellow commissioners on the proposed Club expansion plan. The county had proposed at least two alternative sites, including a still-occupied mobile home park that was a known contaminated site. “The parks department already has plans,” the article quotes. The county referenced two complaints from residents of bullets landing in their yards, but it cited no evidence of an investigation into the cause. It is an undeniable fact even to this day that people “shoot out in the woods” all over this part of the county—a problem aggravated exponentially in the last eight years due to the two lawsuits and injunctions.
Another article from the same summer quoted Matt Ryan once again saying that though the county dropped the idea for the Club to move from the Parks Department’s plan, Club expansion was “unlikely.” According to the other two commissioners, Phil Best and Win Granlund, noise was their biggest concern.
And another tactic the county attempted without informing the Club was to request from the Navy that civilians be allowed to use the Camp Wesley Harris facility. A copy of a letter from the county commissioners dated March 14, 1995 shows that then-U.S. Representative Norm Dicks, a major figure in the House Armed Services Committee, was in favor of the idea and had put the idea in motion through the chain-of-command. The answer could be summed up as, “Sure. And by that I mean ‘No’…”
The Navy replied with the reality. They only had two interior 25-yard ranges in operation. They were limited to only the few pistol and rifle calibers that they use, and only for certain semi-automatic models of firearm. And the fact that they needed to run those two-ranges nearly full-time to keep 12,000 local troops qualified would always be priority.
But what’s most egregious in this example is that the county quoted the Club as one of the supporting interested parities in their proposal, without actually talking to the Club about it. It’s natural to conclude that they were preparing to have an answer to the question “where will people shoot?” once the Parks Department ’s plan to move the Club to… wherever… was put into play.
Folks, this is just the tip of an iceberg that includes a lot of manipulative behavior. Once the land the Club uses became the club’s own property, the county had successfully removed the state from the equation. The rest of this series will go into great detail on both lawsuits that they’ve filed, as well as a couple of other actions taken on the thin and immoral veil called “the 4th Administrative Branch.” In the future segments, you’ll learn it isn’t just about noise, or the environment, or safety, or even failures to get permits and plans. All of those are just the tools of subterfuge Kitsap County and its mouthpiece, the Kitsap Sun, have used to confuse the public.
Thanks for reading this far. PLEASE SHARE! We need this to go viral! Proofing provided by Marcus Carter. If you missed Part 1, it is linked here and at the top of this article. For information in how you can support Kitsap Rifle & Revolver Club in this fight, email firstname.lastname@example.org You can relay your thoughts and question to me via the comments below or at Austin@authoraustinchambers.com