Gun range shut down after stray round flies

Neighbors, club officials and police will meet to discuss safety issues.

The pistol range at the Bainbridge Island Sportsmen’s Club is closed pending the installation of safety improvements.

The closure follows reports of a stray bullet that struck the house of Bob and Karen King in the Brookfield subdivision some three-quarters of a mile north of the club’s shooting range on Sportsman Club Road.

“Safety is our primary concern,” said club president Bill Omaits. “The pistol range is closed to everybody, including police, until we can analyze the situation, design corrective measures and implement them.”

A shotgun range remains open, Omaits said, but all shot from those short-range weapons stays on the club’s 13 acres.

The club’s rifle range also remains open, he said. Rifle shooters must put their guns into a “muffler box” that not only reduces the sound, but directs the bullets into a narrow area, ensuring containment.

The stray bullet struck the Kings’ house on Aug. 23, Omaits said. The range was partially re-opened for single-shot pistol practice from short range on Aug. 27, but closed again completely last Monday.

Club officials, police representatives and Brookfield residents were to meet Friday evening to discuss the situation.

Omaits, a forensic accountant by profession, said that while the bullet found at the King’s house was consistent with a weapon being fired on the range at the same time, he is not yet convinced that it came from the range.

“We are in the process, at our own expense, of trying to have a ballistics test, but those things are not available at the corner store,” he said. “But we have been here for 70 years, and there is no proof that any other round has left the range.”

Brookfield homeowners association president John Green said his concern was the opposite – the bullet that hit the King’s house might not have been a one-time occurrence.

“If a bullet hit your house while you weren’t home, you might not find it until you were painting or something years later,” he said. “And it’s not just a problem for this neighborhood. It’s a concern for people who drive on New Brooklyn Road, and even for students at Sakai School.”

Green said he is not opposed to the shooting range itself, but believes limitations should be placed on the kind and caliber of weapons fired at the range.

“The bullet at the Kings’ was a full-metal jacket bullet,” he said. “Those are not used for target practice, but for killing people. And I’m concerned that rifles may be fired on the range as well, with greater distance and killing power.”

Green said he intended to approach the Bainbridge Island City Council to seek regulations on the club after Friday’s meeting.

The Sportsmen’s Club fieldhouse sits on Sportsman Club Road, north of High School Road.

The club teaches gun safety, and is a nexus for islanders interested in hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities.

It also sponsors the annual fishing derby at a pond across the street, and hosts a Thanksgiving dinner for area seniors.

The club has around 300 members.

Bainbridge Police Lt. Denise Giuntoli said Friday that shutting down the range would be an inconvenience for the police department, because it would mean going to the Gold Mountain area in Gorst for the required quarterly shooting tests.

“Instead of having officers take off for an hour to go do their qualifying, we would have to juggle the shifts,” she said.

Omaits said the club is looking at various remedial measures, including building a lip on the top of the present 12- to 14-foot berm that would extend another four to five feet up, with an “eyebrow” extending towards the shooter.

It also could install thick cross-beams above the range spaced at close intervals “so that from the 25-yard station you couldn’t look up and see blue sky.”

The obstacle – cost.

“There are ranges in Utah that have those things, but they cost $100,000,” he said. “The club doesn’t have $100,000 for that, and I’m not sure the city does either.”

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