Kitsap County is quick to criminally charge people with the crime of Aiming or Discharging a Firearm or Other Dangerous Weapon. But is the charge always justified?
Kitsap County consists of 395 square miles of land, and it is not heavily populated. As such, many families and individuals live on 5 or more acres. One of the draws for many people about Kitsap County is the ability to discharge firearms. However, at least in our office’s opinion, that privilege is frowned upon by the County Prosecuting Attorney and by local law enforcement. In light of that information, is is legal to discharge a firearm on your own property? The answer lies in reading the state and local statutes combines.
State Firearms Statute – RCW 46.41.230 Aiming Or Discharging Firearms, Dangerous Weapons
(1) For conduct not amounting to [an assault], any person who:
(a) Aims any firearm, whether loaded or not, at or towards any human being;
(b) Willfully discharges any firearm, air gun, or other weapon, or throws any deadly missile in a public place, or in any place where any person might be endangered thereby. A public place shall not include any location at which firearms are authorized to be lawfully discharged; or
(c) Except as provided in RCW 9.41.185, sets a so-called trap, spring pistol, rifle, or other dangerous weapon,
although no injury results, is guilty of a gross misdemeanor punishable under chapter 9A.20 RCW.
In summary of the state statute, a person may not aim a firearm towards any human being, discharge a firearm in a public place, or in any place where a person might be endangered.
Kitsap County Statute – 10.25.020(b) Firearms Discharge
(1) The discharge of firearms is prohibited within 500 yards of any shoreline.
(2) The discharge of firearms is [additionally prohibited in certain enumerated locations] – See statute for specifics.
(b) [The discharge of firearms is prohibited] [o]n any parcel of land less than five acres in size.
In summary of the Kitsap statute, a person may not shoot within 500 feet from a shoreline, in certain locations, and if the person’s piece of land is less than five acers in size. In other words, If your piece of land is more than five acers, and not by a shore line, you are most likely good.
Reading The State And Local Statutes Together
Our understanding is this – a person may not aim a firearm towards any human being, discharge a firearm in a public place, or in any place where a person might be endangered. Additionally, the plot of land on which you are shooting must be larger than five acers in size.
The State’s Argument – Which Is Unsuccessful
We have seen the Prosecuting attorneys argue that the act of discharging a firearm “potentially” endangers any human being if anyone is even remotely nearby. For example, we have seen them argue to the Court that a person “might be endangered” even if the person discharging the firearm is shooting in the opposite direction. Their argument to the Court fails. The Court recognizes that the State is trying to make a “per-se” argument – basically just the act of discharging a firearm in and of itself is inherently dangerous to anyone nearby. This argument is overly broad and inconsistent with the wording of the controlling statutes.
If you have been charged with the crime of Aiming or Discharging a Firearm or Other Dangerous Weapon or any other Kitsap County crime, give our office a call.