Commentary: Bullet holes in my home shouldn’t be tolerated

Sheriff’s deputies have played down the seriousness of apparently errant bullets at my Stanwood home.

By Jennifer Duncan / For The Herald

Our home in rural Stanwood has been shot at twice since we moved in two and a half years ago.

The first time, one or more people shot up our garage and back rooms, punching bullets all over our garage door. Two bullets went through the windows, blowing holes into the wall across the room. This was the week that my family moved in, in May, 2017. I called the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. A deputy came out to the house. He attributed this to a long-range rifle, boys “goofing around” by the river, who must have misfired or mischievously shot up a house they thought was vacant. He didn’t think it would happen again, once we had moved in.

After the shootings, I felt worried and threatened in my home and my yard, and scared for our kids. I wondered whether we should place our beds away from the windows, and trajectories that could be reached through windows. Mostly, though, I put this out of my mind. Although we moved from Seattle, I grew up and have lived in many rural areas around the state, including Bainbridge Island, Neah Bay, Winthrop, Sunnyside, Suquamish and Anacortes, and am familiar with the mischief of rural kids. I trusted the sheriff that this wasn’t likely to happen again now that we lived here.

But then, on a mid-summer night last year, someone shot our bathroom window, the one next to our bedroom. The bullet entered and shattered the first pane of glass but not the second. This time the sheriff didn’t see a need to come out to the house. He said over the phone that this kind of thing was fairly common for the houses near or on the roads along the river. He thought from the description that this was a bullet from a long-range rifle, on a downward trajectory. (From my perspective as a lawyer but not a forensics specialist, the source of the trajectory is pretty easily traceable.) He said gun safety was a real issue around here, and that, though they are trying to encourage people to use backstops and other safeguards while practicing shooting, they often don’t. Again, the pane would be expensive to replace and the hole is still there.

I am not anti-gun. I come from a military family — even my grandmother was a sharpshooter —and have enjoyed target shooting and deer hunting. But this is our home, our family’s sanctuary, the place my kids live.

I can’t even believe this. I wake up nearly every weekend morning, pre-dawn, to the sound of gunshots by the river, wondering when the next one will blow through our window, and where that might be: Our bedroom? Our kitchen? One of our daughters’ rooms?

As hunting season continues, I’d like to understand more about what law enforcement is actively doing to enforce (not just “encourage”) gun safety. I find the sheriff office’s response to the shooting of our house (twice) to fall far short of what could be considered best practice; I am left with no assurance that anything will change. I would also welcome thoughts and ideas about what we as a community can do to ensure that people who use guns do so safely and responsibly.

Jennifer Duncan lives in Stanwood.

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