Fire-Prevention Bill Pulled From Utah Senate Because of Gun-Rights Fanatics

Dump Fire
Smoke and flames are seen over homes as the Dump Fire burns near Saratoga Springs on Friday, June 22, 2012. JIM MCAULEY/Daily Herald

Last June 21, target shooters ignited a wildfire near Saratoga Springs that burned 5,507 acres and cost $2.1 million to fight, and resulted in the evacuation of 9,000 residents from their homes. More than 20 Utah wildfires are started by irresponsible target shooters every year.

Why is target shooting causing wildfires? Don’t firearms enthusiasts go to firing ranges where safety precautions are the first priority? Well… regular firing ranges don’t let you shoot an AR-15 at an exploding star target (video), a Tannerite target, or use tracer or incendiary rounds.

Although Utah is one of the most heavily-armed states in the nation, our state government cannot regulate target shooting. Not even in an emergency, such as last year.

Utah code 76-10-500, passed in 1999, states: “Unless specifically authorized by the Legislature by statute, a local authority or state entity may not enact or enforce any ordinance, regulation, or rule pertaining to firearms.” A 2004 law contains similar phrasing.

It seemed like a simple fix for Utah State Senator Margaret Dayton (R-Orem), and State Rep. Curt Oda (R-Clearfield) to introduce SB120, a bill to allow the state forester to restrict target shooting when it would create a high risk of wildfires. It sailed through committee, and Dayton said she has the votes to pass it. But then the gun nuts went ballistic. As the Senate started to debate the measure Friday, Dayton pulled it and told senators that she may not bring it up again.

Once again, it appears that a common-sense measure with majority support cannot withstand the fury of the gun fanatics. Most likely, our state will remain powerless to stop preventable wildfire emergencies caused by yahoos with assault rifles.

UPDATE:
The two men charged with starting Saratoga Springs’ Dump Fire in June have pleaded no contest to reduced charges.

Idaho resident Kenneth Nielsen, 37, and Jeffrey Conant, 42, of Washington state, were originally charged in 4th District Court with reckless burning, a class A misdemeanor, and using prohibited targets, a class B misdemeanor.

… the pleas were part of a deal in which prosecutors agreed to drop the reckless burning charges, and won’t request jail time at sentencing.

The two men each agreed to pay $5,000 in restitution.

Charging documents state that Nielsen and Conant were target shooting near Saratoga Springs at 11:30 a.m. on June 21, when an explosive target ignited dry weeds and spread to burn the mountainside, court documents state.

Fire investigators discovered packaging linked to an explosive target the men used during their shooting session. A fingerprint on the packaging was traced to Nielsen, court documents state.

  1. #1 by Bob S. on February 3, 2013 - 6:02 am

    Richard,

    Why is it you feel the need to deliberately distort things?
    Your statement:

    Although Utah is one of the most heavily-armed states in the nation, our state government cannot regulate target shooting.

    Is directly contradicted by the section of the Utah State Law you cited. I’ll highlight it to make sure you get it.

    “Unless specifically authorized by the Legislature by statute, a local authority or state entity may not enact or enforce any ordinance, regulation, or rule pertaining to firearms.” A 2004 law contains similar phrasing.

    So the State has to pass a statute but that is not the same thing as “our state government cannot regulate target shooting

    It seems the will of the people, expressed through their representatives, is very clear – they don’t want any and every state agency full of unelected bureaucrats making rules.

    Still, the fact remains that, 1) the Beehive State has some of the more liberal gun laws in the country and, 2) many Utahns are thankful for them.

    Nothing stops the people irresponsibly starting fires from being charged, right?
    Why does it seem that isn’t good enough for you. That you want to use any reason to stop people from shooting?

  2. #2 by cav on February 3, 2013 - 8:09 am

    If the targets had had their own guns none of this would have happened. And, besides, tracers are fun! Especially at night.

    Certainly nothing like a star-target with a can of hot bacon grease. That really rocks.

  3. #3 by Cliff on February 3, 2013 - 10:47 am

    Night bowling!

  4. #4 by Cliff on February 3, 2013 - 11:00 am

    Bob S, Tell me if the below is unclear. I took your argument above (#1) and overlaid it on the Second Amendment.

    being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

    So the State has to pass a statute [regulate a militia] but that is not the same thing as “our state government cannot regulate target shooting” ["...cannot regulate guns"]

  5. #5 by Richard Warnick on February 3, 2013 - 11:24 am

    Bob S.–

    Did you check out the exploding target video? Shot in Utah I might add. When there is wildfire danger, the state can ban campfires – but NOT exploding targets? Does this make sense?

    They almost decided to call an emergency session of the state legislature last summer while Utah was burning, just to pass this law. But why should that be necessary if the state forester can make common-sense regulations?

  6. #6 by Richard Warnick on February 3, 2013 - 11:32 am

    Paul Krugman, this morning on ABC’s “This Week”:

    “I think that the terms of the debate have shifted. Now the craziness of the extreme pro-gun lobby has been revealed, and that has got to move the debate and got to move the legislation at least to some degree.

    …The NRA is now revealed as an insane organization, and that matters quite a lot.”

    Maybe we’ll eventually thank the outspoken gun extremists and absolutists. The louder they are, the more the majority of Americans wan to do something about gun safety.

  7. #7 by Richard Warnick on February 3, 2013 - 11:54 am

    Wayne LaPierre:

    “If you limit the American public’s access to [assault weapons] semi-automatic technology, you limit their ability to survive.”

    Paul Krugman:

    “We’ve seen certainly with [NRA CEO] Wayne LaPierre and some of these others, it’s bizarre, they have this vision that we’re living in a Mad Max movie and that nothing can be done about it, that America cannot manage unless everybody’s prepared to shoot intruders, that the idea that we have a police force that provides public safety is somehow totally impractical, despite the fact that that is in fact the way we live.”

    “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” (1985)

    “Two men enter, one man leaves.”

  8. #8 by brewski on February 3, 2013 - 12:25 pm

    Since when did Paul Krugman become and expert on the NRA and guns in general?

  9. #9 by Richard Warnick on February 3, 2013 - 1:59 pm

    The point is, even Paul Krugman can’t help but notice how the Gun Lobby has launched itself into cloudcuckooland.

  10. #10 by cav on February 3, 2013 - 2:48 pm

    You don’t have to be a rocket surgeon!

  11. #11 by brewski on February 3, 2013 - 3:07 pm

    All lobbies are in cloudcuckooland. How did we end up with the shit-sandwich of Obamacare if were not for the cloudcuckooland lobbyists?

  12. #12 by Epraim James on February 3, 2013 - 5:17 pm

    Let Utah burn itself to the ground. Kind of a conflagration of stupidity.

  13. #13 by cav on February 3, 2013 - 6:07 pm

    Such a romantic.

    I blame the stupidity on poorly designed freeways, crappily timed traffic lights and what’s that mess out in West Valley City?? With all of that, throw in temperature inversions and ther resultant ‘air-quality-diseases’ will take a sad but marked toll on the brains cells.

  14. #14 by Richard Warnick on February 4, 2013 - 10:12 am

    Some people can tell the difference between fictional stories and reality, and some cannot.

    BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Sylvester Stallone says that despite his “Rambo” image and new shoot-em-up film “Bullet to the Head,” he’s in favor of new national gun control legislation.

    Stallone supported the 1994 “Brady bill” that included a now-expired ban on assault weapons, and hopes that ban can be reinstated.

    “I know people get (upset) and go, ‘They’re going to take away the assault weapon.’ Who … needs an assault weapon? Like really, unless you’re carrying out an assault. … You can’t hunt with it. … Who’s going to attack your house, a (expletive) army?”

    I enjoyed Stallone’s movie, but I was late to the theater because I live in Utah and there was a traffic jam caused by the gun show at the expo center next door. Firearms fanatics are scrambling to buy every assault weapon they can lay their hands on, and of course they need thousands of rounds of ammo too!

  15. #15 by Bob S. on February 4, 2013 - 6:58 pm

    Richard,

    Thought you might want to put your numbers into a little context for your readers.

    More than 20 Utah wildfires are started by irresponsible target shooters every year.

    According to research — in 2011, Utah had 1,102 wild fires. So even increasing your “20″ by 50% to give the benefit of the doubt; “firearm’ related fires were a whooping 2.7% of all the fires in that year. Really closer to 1.8% but let’s not quibble.

    http://www.predictiveservices.nifc.gov/intelligence/2011_statssumm/fires_acres.pdf

    Once again you show your absolute obsession with firearms by ignoring the 97% of the other fires and their causes.

    Maybe, just maybe it might make sense for you to worry about those instead.

    And Maybe, just Maybe the state representatives had it right to keep people like you from trampling other people’s rights, eh?

  16. #16 by Richard Warnick on February 5, 2013 - 7:00 am

    Bob S.–

    Most wildfires are caused by lightning strikes. Last year in Utah, 1,453 fires were recorded, 604 of which were human-caused. The human-caused fires are the most dangerous because they’re usually in proximity to homes, and they are also the most costly.

    The guys who caused the Dump Fire last June have entered a plea for no jail time and $5,000 “restitution” on a fire that cost $2.1 to fight (see update). Bear in mind that they never took responsibility for their actions until investigators tracked them down.

    Is there a constitutional right to shoot at exploding targets and set off fireballs that threaten lives and property?

    • #17 by Bob S. on February 5, 2013 - 7:40 am

      Richard,

      YES — what part of the Constitution isn’t a list of our rights don’t you get?

      The founding fathers must have had you in mind when they wrote the Bill of Rights. The 9th Amendment clearly states that the people retain all their rights — even to do something dangerous like shooting exploding targets.

      Even with 604 ‘human-caused’ fires, firearm related fires –20, your number – is only 3.3%.

      Why are you fixated on such a low root cause?

  17. #18 by Richard Warnick on February 5, 2013 - 8:50 am

    Bob S.–

    With so-called rights come responsibilities. I know it doesn’t say that in the Constitution.

    Irresponsible target shooters are a preventable cause of wildfires – it makes sense to focus on what we can prevent.

    Your idea of prosecuting the yahoos after the fact obviously is impractical if they can (1) flee the scene and almost get away with it ,and (2) end up with only a $5,000 fine and no jail time.

  18. #19 by Bob S. on February 5, 2013 - 9:14 am

    Richard,

    How is that any different than what we do with irresponsible campers/hikers, people who burn trash, throw cigarettes out car windows or any other way fires get started?

    Ever hear of a “Pareto Analysis” or the 80/20 rule? Maybe instead of focusing on 3.3% of the problem, you can focus on the larger causes.

    Since you are so concerned about forest fires, can I get a recap of the activities you’ve personally have undertaken to reduce the impact?

    I’m sure you’ve volunteered on the fire lines, right?
    Donated money to the cause? Cleared underbrush, participated in controlled burns? Patrolled ranges for violations of the law?

  19. #20 by Richard Warnick on February 5, 2013 - 9:41 am

    The State of Utah sets fire restrictions according to the danger. Because of the severe fire danger last summer, for example, we could not have any fire in camp on a river trip – not even in a fire pan. But the law does not allow any restrictions on outdoor target shooting.

    Explain why the state legislature should not enact SB120.

  20. #21 by Bob S. on February 5, 2013 - 9:54 am

    Because the right to keep and bear arms, including practice, is protected by the Constitution.

    1984 Utah: The individual right of the people to keep and bear arms for security and defense of self, family, others, property, or the state, as well as for other lawful purposes shall not be infringed; but nothing herein shall prevent the legislature from defining the lawful use of arms.

    Nothing stops the state legislature from enacting laws but the will of the people. And clearly the will of the people is to keep faceless, unelected bureaucrats from making rules regarding firearms.

    Are you against people expressing their wishes through their democratically elected government?

    In short Richard, SB120 should not be enacted to keep short sighted, obsessive people like you from making the rules.

  21. #22 by cav on February 5, 2013 - 10:28 am

    BobS, the ‘people’ as are so often lumped together, are themselves faceless and unelected. Personal sides to every issue. There’s no more inherent good sense, responsibility or consensus for that matter in this group than there is in Mega-Corp ‘the Person’.

    But it’s a useful tool – as ‘the American People’ are always of like mind and clearly on the same side of whichever specific issue the wags need support on.

    Not buying.

  22. #23 by Richard Warnick on February 5, 2013 - 10:31 am

    It’s not “the will of the people” that’s gotten in the way of SB120. Loud-mouth gun rights activists are a tiny minority that’s thwarting the will of the people, as we all know.

  23. #24 by Bob S. on February 5, 2013 - 10:48 am

    Cav,

    Yes, the people are faceless and unelected — your point is working against you. The people are the ones voting with their pocket books emptying out stores of guns and ammunition.

    The people are the ones NOT rising up and demanding action on the horrendous fact that 3.3% of the fires are related — should be more accurately said — blamed on firearms.

    There’s no more inherent good sense, responsibility or consensus for that matter in this group than there is in Mega-Corp ‘the Person’.

    I feel sad for you Cav. I don’t know what turned you off the common sense and wisdom of most people but I know it is sad to see.
    Yes, there are problems with mobs and with masses of people but the reality is things work out well enough. Millions of people every day exercise common sense and judgment, they exercise their rights and responsibilities. Look at Richard’s numbers for example – only 604 human related fire of a population of 2,855,287. Do we really have such a huge problem that we need another law?

    Will another law stop the 20 out of 2,855,287 –0.0007% of the people — from causing another fire? Will it even reduce it in half?

    Is the loss of freedom worth it?

    Richard,

    Your obsession is showing again. Sad my friend, very sad.

    If it was a ‘tiny minority’ then the representatives would hear from the majority or share their opinions. Don’t you believe that democracy works.
    Aren’t you the one telling me, over and over again, that the public opinion is against gun owners???

    And if it is just a ‘tiny minority’ why is your great state electing — and re-electing representatives who ignore the majority?

  24. #25 by Richard Warnick on February 5, 2013 - 11:11 am

    Bob S.–

    The freedom to start fires is not in the Bill of Rights. Your freedom stops at the line where it impinges on my safety.

    The Utah legislature routinely ignores the majority of Utahns. And our legislators are fond of telling us this is not a democracy. Most Utahns don’t bother to vote because our elections are one-sided and the outcome is pre-determined nearly all the time.

    SB120 was approved by the Republican supermajority before the gun nuts complained and the sponsor pulled the bill.

  25. #26 by cav on February 5, 2013 - 11:22 am

    On the off chance I’m still here after the rapture – I know, perish the ridiculous thought, I’ll certainly want an ample supply of weapons and ammo.

    Really, more for the comfort they’ll give me.

  26. #27 by Bob S. on February 5, 2013 - 11:32 am

    Richard,

    The freedom to commit libel or murder isn’t in the Bill of Rights either – what a weak straw man argument.

    Those are criminal actions punishable by law. Same as criminally starting fires.

    Your freedom stops at the line where it impinges on my safety.

    What a crock of bovine excrement !!!!!

    And worse you know it. You are flat out lying; we all have freedoms that impinges on other people’s safety. Look at Air Travel, automobiles, house hold cleaning products, and millions of others. We control the impact of those dangerous items through laws, just like we do with firearms.

    But apparently despite the fact that under existing laws firearm related deaths, injuries and crimes have been dropping; that isn’t good enough for you.

    And our legislators are fond of telling us this is not a democracy.

    It isn’t a democracy, despite your claims that majority should make the rules, it is a Constitutional Republic.

    Most Utahns don’t bother to vote because our elections are one-sided and the outcome is pre-determined nearly all the time.

    If so few people bother to vote, then it should be easier for you to throw out the bums right?

    Just what is your ultimate goal regarding firearms Richard?

    You don’t want people to be able to own semi-automatic scary looking rifles. I think you are against Concealed and Open Carry if I remember right. You also are against “Castle Doctrine” and “Stand Your Ground” Laws, right?

    Just what do you want to ‘allow’ the people to do?

  27. #28 by cav on February 5, 2013 - 11:38 am

    Bob. Now take a deep nose breath.

    Many actually have different views from yours. You have to realize the breadth of the marketing that has tipped us into this fearful state. In fact were it not for the preponderance of these oh so revered ‘tools’ there’d be oh so many more of us up walking around – still involved in the pitched battles that are our lives.

  28. #29 by Richard Warnick on February 5, 2013 - 11:41 am

    Bob S.–

    We elect our so-called representatives by district. District boundaries in Utah are drawn by Republicans to make sure Republicans control the legislature and dominate the congressional delegation. In other words, instead of the voters choosing the politicians, the politicians get to pick the voters they need to stay in office.

    What do you mean ultimate goal? There is no way gun safety legislation is going to pass. I’m just calling attention to the nonsense, the absurdity, and the horror of more mass shootings while politicians ignore 90 percent of Americans.

    Mass-murder weapons are here to stay. The laws that the Gun Lobby pushes to make it legal to shoot people are here to stay, too. All I can do is point out the injustice.

  29. #30 by cav on February 5, 2013 - 11:55 am

    Gun scolds aren’t unpatriotic. Just accessing a different set of tools, as they’ve often found the fear debilitating.

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