I, as many people are, am deeply troubled by the recent event of the deaths of children by a mad man. It is greatly saddening to see and hear the details of this slaughter of innocents by another citizen of our great country. The hue and cry raised after this event is even more troubling. The call to restrict firearm ownership and the restrictions against certain types of firearms makes my blood boil especially when you realize this is a societal problem not a problem with firearm ownership or use. I was going to write a long winded diatribe about the Second Amendment, it’s meaning, and the value of having this right reserved to the people instead of the government but in the din of everyone else on the planet commenting I thought it would be best to bring this home to Island County, after all we are a local Island County blog and we try to deal with local issues that have a direct effect on all of us.
What is the history of firearm usage and the exercising of the 2nd Amendment in Island County? What exactly have we lost and what will we lose in the future with more legislation against firearm usage?
My earliest recollection of firearm usage was when my father would setup a bale of hay in our backyard on North Whidbey and we would target shoot with 22 rimfires against what we called the “shooting stump”.
We had a good backstop of several miles of trees to stop any stray bullets and shot at this stump for several years until a new development was built behind our property that made it unsafe to use anymore. We missed the loss of our “shooting stump” it was easy and it was convenient but too unsafe to use with the new development. At that time it was not a huge loss as we had many other places close by to shoot and target practice.
At that time all county gravel pits and dumps were open to shooting. Mom would pack a snack and we would load up the truck and go to one of the gravel pits. We would shoot up a couple of bricks of 22 rimfire maybe go through a box of clay pigeons and several boxes of shotgun shells and then look for agates in the gravel of the pit. We still have jars and jars of agates found in these pits from days of cheap entertainment.
The use of the gravel pits and dumps went on until the mid 70′s. One day when going to the gravel pit there was a sign at the entrance, the sign said no trespassing and no shooting. On visiting other pits they were also posted. On contacting the county we were told they were closed due to liability concerns. There was no public input or vote they were just closed off from public use due to some unknown liability the county was concerned about. Was there ever any harm done by allowing shooting in the county gravel pits? None that I am aware of, there were no deaths, there were no injuries, there was no property damage but the pits were closed anyway. Liability they said…
From then on you had a choice, either you knew someone who had a private pit to use, you joined one of the gun clubs on the Island, you paid to use the range at Greene’s gunshop or you went out of the county. Luckily we knew several people who had private pits but eventually these were sold or developed and shooting was not allowed by the new owners. What were the citizens of Island County left with? If you owned no property that was conducive to shooting you were stuck with shooting at paper targets at a range somewhere and paying to do so. Gravel pit shooting was dead on the Island, no county land was available for any firearm usage except for hunting. We went from having many small local places to shoot for free to none in a coupe of years.
Now let’s fast forward to the year 2012. Nothing had really changed in the past 40 years, the county pits are still closed, citizens practicing and exercising their 2nd Amendment rights so that they may become well regulated still had limited choices in doing so. Those that owned suitable land could still exercise their rights without fear they would be closed down. Until now. Now we have a group of homeowners trying to enact new legislation to curb target shooting on private property. They have purchased their homes in a rural county with a rural lifestyle, they have made themselves a little utopia by enacting rules and regulations called bylaws and codicils that they all have agreed to live by, they have injected themselves and their utopia right into the middle of our rural Island and they do not like the remainder of the rural lifestyle that surrounds them. They are now attempting to close down the last choice that property owners have to exercise and practice being well regulated in tune with their 2nd Amendment rights that have been reserved to them.
It is now time for the people of this county to stand up and be counted. We have watched the county ignore a large portion of their electorate for way to many years and give their attention to those that could care less about our 2nd Amendment. We have seen large portion of our county preserved using millions of public funds, we have seen our public lands locked away here on the Island and made inaccessible to those with other uses. If you hike, bike, birdwatch or ride horseback you are covered here in Island County, the county is unable to tell you what right they are preserving with these actions because they are preserving no rights they are just serving special interests. If you wish to exercise and practice your 2nd Amendment rights you are forgotten about.
It is now the time for those supporters of the 2nd Amendment make reasonable demands of the county government that we vote into office.
What would those reasonable demands look like?
1- Outright rejection of the proposed Island County Shooting ordinance.
2- A statement by our County Commissioners upholding the values of the Second Amendment and upholding the rights of the citizens to safely practice those rights on private property. A notification process should be developed as we have for people effected by NAS Whidbey noise zones that will notify new property owners of the fact that we are a rural county and will preserve all rural uses of private property on the Islands including target shooting on private property.
3 - Opening up of selected county gravel pits for target shooting and designating them official shooting areas.
4- Development of County wide shooting ranges. One on the North end of Whidbey, one on the South end and one on Camano.
5- A freeze on all funding to all development of hiking, biking and riding trails and a freeze on all public funds going to the preservation of land on the Island until the needs of the people wishing to practice their 2nd Amendment rights are met. No more taxpayer dollars going to preservation or special interests until the basic needs of the people are met. Now you say that firearms usage is just another special interest and we are no better than them by calling for taxpayer dollars to be spent on shooting ranges. Preservation, hiking, biking, horseback riding and bird watching are not rights reserved to the people. Exercising your 2nd Amendment Rights to be “well regulated” or trained is one of the rights our forefathers reserved to us the people and it deserves the full attention of our elected leaders and adequate funding to assist in preserving and practicing that right.
For way too long we have seen our tax dollars go to the needs of others. It is now time for firearm owners and those that believe in the 2nd Amendment to stand up and be counted. We have preserved over 7000 acres on the Island through public funding of the Whidbey Camano Land Trust at the cost of millions and millions of dollars of public grant funding and private dollars. We have seen the State of Washington take over large portions of our Island for our State park system spending untold millions of dollars doing so.
How much has the county spent on the citizens who wish to practice their Second Amendment rights so that they may become “Well Regulated”?
How much has the State spent on the citizens who wish to practice their Second Amendment rights so that they may become “Well Regulated”?
If we do not stand up for our rights they will be gone forever. Laws concerning the use of firearms or the firearms themselves rarely if ever are lessened, once a law is enacted restricting anything to do with firearms the law is never returned to where it was before. We have slowly seen the erosion of these rights right here in our own little corner of the world. Even with firearm ownership at record highs we have seen our rights slowly whittled away to nothing but the right itself. We can “keep” and we can “bear” but any resemblance to a “well regulated militia” is nothing more than pointless words if the right reserved to us cannot be exercised and practiced regularly.
Now is the time to end the nonsense here in Island County.
Please contact your Commissioners and get them to support the 2nd Amendment and the exercise of that right that was reserved to the people and not the government. Encourage them to look at and act on the 5 points above to ensure our Second Amendment stays alive at the local level.
United States Bill of Rights Second Amendment:
“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
Washington State Constitution Section 24 Right To Bear Arms
“The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men.”