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Gun restrictions in Graham-Kapowsin area get another look from county

The proposal sponsored by Councilman Jim McCune would open up an area where firearms use has been banned since 2002.
The proposal sponsored by Councilman Jim McCune would open up an area where firearms use has been banned since 2002. lgiles@gateline.com

A legal change that would allow firearms use on more than 2,000 acres of unincorporated land in the Graham-Kapowsin area has put neighbors at odds over the safety and necessity of shooting in their locale.

The Pierce County Council is scheduled to take a final vote on the proposed ordinance amendment at a 3 p.m. meeting Tuesday (March 1).

The proposal sponsored by Councilman Jim McCune would open up an area where firearms use has been banned since 2002. The irregularly shaped area is generally west of the Orting-Kapowsin Highway, south of 234th Street East, east of 110th Avenue East and north of 288th Street East.

The council is considering lifting the shooting ban after some residents petitioned the county to exclude their area from the 43-square-mile area where the council outlawed firearms discharges more than a dozen years ago. The restricted area already has shrunk by 750 acres under council votes during the last two years.

In letters to the council and in testimony at previous hearings, some residents of the latest area under review said they enjoy hunting in the area and need authorization to shoot predators such as coyotes who prey on their chickens and livestock.

Mark Rayburn said he has lived in the area for 48 years and has never heard of anyone being injured by stray bullets. He and his neighbors want to be able to duck hunt and shoot wild animals that endanger their livelihoods.

He said he fires his weapons infrequently and never on Sunday, which he considers a family day. Firearms users are generally responsible and don’t use their guns in a way that could endanger others, he said.

“It’s not the wild, wild West out there,” he said.

Renee Fisher, another Graham-area resident, said she and many of her neighbors are concerned that bullets that miss their marks could end up on their property, hitting their homes and their animals.

“We want to be safe and comfortable when we walk down the road,” she said.

The area has grown to be too populated to allow shooting, she told the council.

Fisher submitted a petition last month signed by 41 residents asking the council to maintain the shooting prohibition.

“I only found two people who didn’t want to sign,” she said. “One wanted to deal with the elk that trampled his fence and the other wanted to target shoot.”

James L. Halmo, who lives in the area, wrote to the council complaining that the ordinance change could endanger people using the Graham Rural Activity Center and the Graham Covenant Evangelical Church.

He said the topography of the area could allow stray shots fired from the higher ground in the area to strike people and objects in the valley areas.

The Pierce County Firearms Advisory Commission last year recommended the no-shooting area be modified to remove the Graham-Kapowsin tract mentioned in the proposed ordinance. County documents show that the commission based its recommendation on the undeveloped nature of the area, its large parcel sizes and its distance from urban areas.

John Gillie: 253-597-8663

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