There's an interesting story brewing in Utah surrounding public safety and personal freedom. Republican Gov. Gary Herbert is taking some steps that some Second Amendment champions will find unappealing. On Monday, he announced that the state forester has the power and the right to ban target shooting in unincorporated areas of the state (areas outside cities and towns).
While the decision will surely create some angst, it is being made following public safety concerns. Since target shooting, among other activities like using fireworks, is considered to be a potential fire-starter, Herbert is attempting to minimize dangers. At least one recent fire was apparently started by shooting, which adds fuel to the proposal to ban the practice in specified areas.
Deseret News has more about the difficult decisions surrounding the potential ban:
The governor's announcement came after a 1½-hour, closed-door meeting with legislative leaders and a number of attorneys over whether a special session was needed to put a stop to target shooting in the wake of hundreds of fires.
Neither Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, nor House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, appeared to have any interest in changing the law to restrict target shooting, but both agreed it could be handled by state Forester Dick Buehler.
The governor had suggested earlier Monday he may well have the ability to ban fireworks and target shooting throughout the state, but said after the meeting with legislative leaders he didn't want to have that theory tested in court.
Herbert called the legal situation "complicated" at a hastily called 6 p.m. news conference.
"None of us were into a blanket, one-size-fits-all approach," the governor said.
"We're not interested in blanket bans," said Lockhart. We're not interested in any way in limiting people's 2nd Amendment right to carry firearms in their own interest."
While others, like Waddoups, said that rights aren't purposefully trying to be trampled, some citizens may disagree. But in the name of safety, the decision to protect citizens against fires seems to be at the forefront of discussion. Already, a firework ban has been placed throughout unincorporated areas by the state forester. Deseret continues:
At least one recent fire was believed to have been started by target shooters, but the so-called "Dump Fire" was apparently sparked within an incorporated area. Herbert said it is up to local governments to place any restrictions on target shooting within their limits.
Earlier Monday, the governor told the Deseret News something needed to be done. He first broached the idea last week of calling a special legislative session to give local law enforcement the power to ban target shooting.
"Clearly, I think there's a need just for public safety purposes to either have the governor be able to do that, to declare an emergency situation, to maybe have a little more carte blanche ability to set parameters on firearms and fireworks," Herbert said. "If not, there's certainly the local control."
Despite the state facing its worst fire season in years, the governor doesn't want to overreach and overreact through policy. So, he's treading carefully.
"What we don't want to do is be like Congress. Congress is good at doing two things. One is nothing, and two is overreact," Herbert proclaimed. "We don’t want to do that. Again, we want to do what is appropriate, measured and thoughtful. That's what we're doing. We're not going to overreact on that."
Read more about this story over at Deseret News.