On Sunday, Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge wrote what he called “my response to the ‘narrative’ that has been created about recent actions by my office.” He posted a five-point post to his Facebook page.
On Sunday, we ran two pieces about the county’s lawsuit against the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club, which you can read here and here. Also, here’s a link to our overall coverage of the suit. And some of the points he makes were already addressed in a previous story.
Here’s Hauge’s post:
Please consider this my response to the “narrative” that has been created about recent actions by my office. I am responsible for those actions and it is fair that I be judged on them. However, the basis for that judgment should be fact—not a construct created to further a political agenda.
Fact One: I am not anti-gun. No one has asked me about this directly. The truth is that I own many firearms, mostly handguns, and have shot them regularly since I was a child. I hunt occasionally and practice with my handguns as often as I can. Usually I use the indoor range at “The Marksman” in Puyallup.
Fact Two: I have no personal grudge against Marcus Carter. Indeed, before we learned he was manufacturing machine guns I regularly assisted him in his firearm safety classes. I taught the lesson about firearms and the law. In those classes, I tried to make this one point above all: The constitution of the State of Washington unambiguously grants its citizens the right to bear arms in defense of themselves and their homes; however, that right carries with it great responsibilities. The statutes of the State of Washington spell out the rules for the possession and use of firearms. My office will support lawful use and respond immediately and firmly to unlawful use.
Fact Three: My office has not repeatedly prosecuted Mr. Carter. There is one pending action. Twice Kitsap County Superior Court judges, using different reasons, have prevented us from taking the case to a jury. Twice, the next higher court, the Court of Appeals, has said they were wrong and sent the case back for trial. There is nothing extraordinary about our office appealing a ruling of the superior court. Judges can make mistakes, and an appeal is the mechanism to correct their errors. We are pursuing this not because I hate guns, but because machine guns are inherently dangerous and we think the law is clear. A local judge has blocked the trial yet again on a new theory raised just before trial. We have again appealed and expect the case to be sent back for trial sometime this year. But appellate courts keep their own schedule; that’s why it’s taken so long. We will pursue this prosecution. There is no question that Mr. Carter manufactured and possessed a machine gun. The reports are part of the public record. There is a video tape of the weapon firing on full auto that no news agency has ever asked to see. My office cannot ignore this clear violation of the law. To do so would be to effectively authorize the manufacture and possession of machine guns in our community. If that is to be the rule, it should be established by the legislature or the courts. Thus far, the court that counts, the Court of Appeals, has agreed with us.
Fact Four: Our goal has never been to close the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club. Our position is set forth in a letter we sent to the club in May of this year. We’ve provided more than one copy of this letter to every local news outlet, but no one has seen fit to print it. It is posted on our portion of the County’s website http://www.kitsapgov.com/pros/krrc.htm ( Complaint, beginning on pg. 72). It is an attachment to the core document in this suit, the Complaint. In summary our position has been that we have credible information that the Club may have violated variety of permitting, zoning, and environmental laws. It is our job to address those concerns. We have asked the Club’s cooperation in resolving these issues but received no helpful response. Very recently, credible information came to us that there may be significant safety concerns. By all reports, the range officers at the club do an outstanding job. Every shooter is made to follow appropriate procedures. But the day-to-day operation of the ranges is not the issue. The concerns arise from the layout of the ranges themselves. There are standards in the shooting industry to address these issues. They exist to ensure peaceful co-existence of gun clubs with their neighbors. The Club’s facilities have expanded beyond those that existed when it was “grandfathered” into the current zoning code. This expansion makes those industry standards relevant. Like the machine gun case, my office would be giving its approval to what might well be law violations affecting public safety if we ignored this situation.
Fact Five: The land use action concerning the club did not spring up just in time for me to use it in a political campaign. The dialog between the regulatory agencies, the Club, and the surrounding property owners has been going on for years http://www.kitsapgov.com/pros/krrc.htm (The Mount Document, photos 1994-2009 pgs 20, 67, 71 and 73). It was filed now because the Club leadership has refused to engage in that dialog in any kind of constructive manner. Indeed, it is just as reasonable to assume that the Club orchestrated this crisis to coincide with the upcoming election. As I’ve said before, I certainly recognize that I’m not doing my reelection campaign any good by filing this action now.
Prosecutors do not—and should not—have the authority pick and choose among the laws they are sworn to enforce. We do indeed have to make choices about how to expend our resources, but those choices should be guided by principle. I have been advised that the politically expedient thing to do would be to look the other way and in effect authorize the manufacture of machine guns and the violation of our community’s environmental and zoning protections. Certainly that’s the consensus in the blogosphere. But that’s not how it works. The prosecutor’s first duty is not to hew to any party line or even to get reelected. The prosecutor’s job is to enforce the law as best they can. That’s all I’m trying to do.