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Shooting Guns Banned in Utah County Due to Fire Hazards

8020 Views 37 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  cardo

Shooting Guns Banned in Utah County Due to Fire Hazards
July 3, 2007

Randall Jeppesen, KSL Newsradio

If you plan on going out shooting guns this holiday week, don't head for Utah County. A ban is now place on shooting guns because of the fire danger.

Due to dried out vegetation, county Fire Marshal Dennis Barker and the sheriff says no more shooting guns: "We found five fires so far this year that were attributed to firearm discharge."

Barker says the ban is unusual, but he says it's so hot and so dry that it's not worth the risk; "Some of these fires are costing the county about $1 million to put them out."

The ban is for all of unincorporated Utah County and there's no date yet as to when the ban expires.

Utah County press release:
Effective immediately the discharge of all firearms in the unincorporated areas of Utah County is prohibited until the currently dry weather conditions improve. The recent pattern of hot day time temperatures, high winds, and dry fuel conditions have increased the probability of a wild-land fire exponentially. The discharge of a firearm is the suspected cause of several fires that have been attributed to people discharging firearms in the unincorporated areas of Utah County.

Fires are not uncommon at "make-shift" shooting areas or unauthorized shooting area's. To date, two large fires have started as a result of firearms shooting activities in the unincorporated Utah County area. A fire can start as a result of "sparks" when a bullet ricochets off of rock or other debris. This type of fire can spread very rapidly and endanger not only our environment, but our communities, and the lives of County citizens and responding firefighter personnel as well. The cost of fighting these fires is often overwhelming. If an investigation determines who is at fault for starting a fire, that individual may be held liable for all costs associated with fighting the fire.

To increase compliance with this temporary restriction, the Utah County Fire Marshal and Sheriff's Office, and the Bureau of Land Management office will step up patrol and enforcement of the firearm discharge restriction in the unincorporated areas of Utah County.

We are aware that many people enjoy a day of firearm shooting and being outdoors. However, until this restriction is lifted, we would encourage that you restrict your firearm shooting activities to an approved or developed firearms range. We appreciate the public's willingness to partner with Utah County Public Safety Officials and comply with this restriction during this dangerous fire season.
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Yikes! :shock:

I'm glad that I don't live there anymore.

But it's plenty hot here in Cache County too. Just not as bad as Utah County.
That's interesting considering Utah has preemption:

"In conjunction with Title 76, Chapter 10, Part 5, Weapons, this section is uniformly applicable throughout this state and all its political sudivisions and municipalities. All authority to regulate firearms is reserved to the state except where the Legislature specifically delegates responsibility to local authorities or state entities. Unless specifically authorized by the Legislature by statute, a local authority or state entity may not enact, establish, or enforce any ordinance, regulation, rule, or policy pertaining to firearms that in any way inhibits or restricts the possession or use of firearms on either public or private property."

"Use of firearms" would include discharging. I certainly understand Utah County officials want to prevent fires but this is not the way to do it. So if you are in an unincorporated part of the county and have to discharge your firearm in self-defense, you are guilty? Of what? I'd like to know where the county sheriff and the fire marshall are getting the authority to ban discharge of firearms since only the state legislature can give them that authority.
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Sorry--I forgot to provide a citation to the above quoted portion of the code. Please see Utah Code 63-98-102.
NRA's 007 said:
That's interesting considering Utah has preemption:

"...Unless specifically authorized by the Legislature by statute...
Although I couldn't find anything in the Utah Code, I'd guess that somewhere in there, counties are authorized by law to regulate the discharge of firearms just like cities are. 10-8-47 states that cities "may regulate and prevent the discharge of firearms".

Thanks for the citation. However, I believe it is out of date. It appears that part of the code was last amended in 1981. (I'm going off of the this website: http://le.utah.gov/~code/code.htm )

Title 10 applies to the Utah Municipal Code. Utah County is not a city. In any case, the Utah Legislature passed UT CODE 63-98-102 in 2004. UT CODE 63-98-102(1) states the legislature's intent to "provide uniform civil and criminal firearm laws throughout the state." If each city were able to enact their own gun laws, it could vary from city to city. What could be legal in one city could be illegal in another. That is why there needs to be uniformity and that is why the law needed to be changed.

So, I would still like to know where the Utah County sheriff and fire marshal think they are getting their authority to regulate firearms when the legislature has not authorized them to do so.

Does anyone have an experience with enforcement of this "ban" by the sheriff, fire marshal or Bureau of Land Management?
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Ok. I have a few more details now. The Utah County commissioners declared a state of emergency due to the fire conditions. As part of that, on July 10 they declared a ban on the discharge of firearms in unincorporated parts of Utah County. The ban is supposed to be for only 30 days but, according to Commissioner Larry Ellertson, the ban could continue throughout the summer. Folks, this is a back door attempt to shutdown shooting activities in Utah County. The majority of fires start from things other than sparks from gun shots. Matches should be banned before firearm discharges since they cause more fires. They want to ban any activity that could start a fire. Lots of activities can cause fires. In that case, camping should be banned because starting a campfire may cause a fire. See how ridiculous this is getting already?

http://www.desnews.com/cgi-bin/cqcgi_pl ... T_MAIN=YES

Document no. 9 of 14
[Go To Best Hit]
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Deseret News
[Edit Document]

Edition: UtahValley
Page: B01

Fire risk prompts gun ban

County restricts use of firearms for 30 days
By Amy Choate-Nielsen
Deseret Morning News
PROVO â€" For everyone who thinks shooting dirt clods and metal signs in Utah County this summer will be fun, think again.
Utah County commissioners declared a state of emergency in the county on Tuesday and placed a temporary ban on the use of all firearms in unincorporated territory because of an increased fire risk. For 30 days from Tuesday, the only shooting going on in Utah County should be in a firing range, said Utah County Sheriff James Tracy.
"This is not an anti-gun effort in any way," Tracy said. "I'm an NRA member. I shoot and I recreate with firearms myself, but we're asking the public to help mitigate an issue that has already caused millions of dollars of damage to the county."
The ban, which does not apply to any federal lands, such as National Forest Service territory, also includes fireworks and open fires.
Several recent costly and dangerous fires in Utah County â€" including the recently contained Mercer fire near Lake Mountain â€" were ignited with gunshots.
However, county officials didn't consider declaring a fire emergency until two weeks ago, when a faulty lawnmower started a fire in the foothills above Provo.
The fire burned so quickly that planes were called into dump fire retardant on the flames â€" at a cost of $3,000-$8,000 per load. Since the fire was on county land, a majority of the bill will come back to the county government, which is expected, but there's only so many fires the county can pay for.
"We had a wet spring that allowed those cheat grasses to grow to a significant size, but we didn't have a lot of snow in the winter to back up the moisture, and we haven't had any rain," Tracy said. "Everything's dried out, and it's just, you look at (the grass) sideways and it wants to catch on fire. ... Our emphasis is to limit the exposure to the types of activities that could start another fire."
Tracy says the sheriff's firing range in Thistle will be opened to the public for free to offer an alternative to shooting in a potentially hazardous area.
Starting Saturday, the range will be open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
After July 20, the range will also be open on Fridays from 5-9 p.m. The range is at 12814 S. Highway 89 in Spanish Fork Canyon, near the old Thistle town site and near the confluence of Thistle Creek and Soldier Creek.
Those found shooting outside of a range in the county will first be warned, then cited with a misdemeanor, Tracy says.
Tracy and other Utah County officials say they don't remember a time when the county has issued such a ban.
"We don't take this lightly," said Utah County Commissioner Gary Anderson. "There are those of us who love to shoot our guns, but I think the state of the fire condition in this state and this county calls for drastic measures. We don't take it lightly, and we are serious. We're already beyond our limits (in fighting fires) and we need to do something."
The restriction will be in effect for 30 days, at which point the County Commission will consider lifting or extending the ban. If conditions significantly improve before the 30 days expire, the commission may consider lifting the ban sooner, but Commissioner Larry Ellertson said he doesn't think such a swift change is likely.
"(It's possible) we're not going to lift this for the rest of the summer, because even rain won't make what's out there go away," Ellertson said.
Norman Van Wagenen, owner of Van Wagenen Finance â€" an Orem store that sells guns â€" says he doesn't think the ban will have much of an impact on recreational shooting.
"It really isn't a big deal because most of the residents go farther out to shoot anyway," Van Wagenen said. "I don't see (the restrictions) as a big problem for me, selling guns and ammunition. We know why (the ban was approved), there's a risk of fires. I understand and believe they should (pass a restriction). They should have done it sooner, but luckily we haven't had a really bad situation in Utah County yet."


E-mail: [email protected]


I say we get vocal. I'm mad, mad, mad mad about this. If I didn't read this thread, I'd be out shooting. I know people are supposed to be let off the first time with a warning, but a lot of innocent people might find themselves on the wrong side of the law if this doesn't get out more. And people who don't know the state law will really think the Utah County commissioners can ban things like firearms discharge on a whim. I don't have the actual ordinance in front of me but I'd be interested to see the fine print.
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I'm sure the County offices would be happy to run a copy off for a resident. I'd think that buried somewhere in there would be the authority to issue such a ban.
Supposedly the ban is only for 30 days, but as I stated in a previous post, one commissioner is already thinking of extending the ban. If this can happen in Utah County, a very conservative county, it can happen anywhere else in Utah.

I've contacted my friends at the NRA. We are going to see what pressure we can put on the commissioners to end the ban. Start spreading the news now, especially to any friends you may have in Utah County, to attend an upcoming meeting to express dissatisfaction with this. For those of you who cannot attend the meeting, date to be determined, call up the commissioners.

Here are their numbers: http://www.co.utah.ut.us/Dept/Commish/P ... /index.asp

Even if you don't live in Utah County, you can call them to express your disapproval.

Who all in UtahConcealedCarry.com lives in Utah County?
Ok. I have the actual ordinance in front of me. I will try and get it in PDF as soon as I can. I had to contact the commissioners' office, who then referred me to the county attorney's office, who made me make a GAMMA request (it's similar to a FOIA request for the feds) and finally got a copy of the ordinance. The ban began on July 10 and lasts for 30 days, unless the county commissioners renew it. The ban prohibits discharge of firearms in unincorporated parts of Utah County, on state land in Utah County and on federal land in Utah County. Listen up--there is more. It also bans discharge of tracer ammunition. The ordinance bans other things, namely making fires (except under certain conditions) and smoking (except under certain conditions). The ban does NOT provide exceptions for self-defense. So if Big Bad Joe comes to your house, threatens to kill you, and you shoot him in self-defense, and you are in one of the new prohibited areas, you broke the law. If you live in the boonies in the county (i.e. unincorporated area) and want to shoot on your property, you are breaking the law. This ban is arbitrary and will not stop fires from happening in the county. Like I said, I'll post the actual text for you (probably on Sunday).
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Firing of tracer or incendiary ammunition on state lands has long been prohibited by U.C.A. 65A-3-2. 36 CFR 261.5 prohibits the same in National Forests.
Car Knocker,

Thanks for the citations. You are correct. The only thing new about this is now there is a county ban. If national forests and state lands are off limits, and now certain areas of the county, "temporarily" anyway, what is next?
NRA's 007, I've been trying to figure out how shooting regular ammo would start a fire. Lead against rock? Copper jacket against rock? I don't see how. BUT I do believe that it happens.

Not too many weeks ago, there was a fire started here in SLC at the Lee Kay Shooting Range. Somehow, a fire was started on the 100 yd berm, and no one seems to know just how it started... except that it did! It's a mystery. The manager out there (a VERY pro-gun person) was cautioning people to make sure their shots were going into the bare-of-vegetation area of the berm behind the targets.

I have relatives in Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain who enjoy shooting in the mountains to the west and north of their places. Yes, they would like to do some shooting. But they'd rather NOT shoot for awhile than take a chance of having their homes burn down.

Surely you don't think the Utah County government is banning shooting just to be mean, do you? It's the fire officials, knowledgeable people who sincerely believe shooting out there might start a fire, who recommended the ban to the county government.

Now about tracer ammo... Shooting tracer ammo into dry brush most assuredly will start a fire. Surely you're not railing against the ban of tracer ammo, are you?
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Thanks for joining the conversation. I know we are experiencing a very bad fire season. I understand that. I also understand the county officials are trying to prevent fires but this ordinance is a bit far-reaching. I will get the ordinance on the board shortly. This ban prevents anyone who lives outside of the incorporated parts of the county from discharging their firearms, even on their own property, even in self-defense. If the state and county will not out and out ban fireworks, which are more likely to cause fires than discharging fireworks, then things are not THAT bad. What I have a problem with is 3 people quietly making criminals out of law-abiding citizens overnight by passing this ordinance without public input. After all, shouldn't the 40,000 + residents of the county have a say in the matter? I had to pull teeth to get a copy of this ordinance. They should have it posted on their website, in it's complete entirety. They normally would have charged me a fee to get a copy of the ordinance, but I convinced them this benefits the public more than me. What if I did not hear about the ban by reading this forum? I would be breaking the law. It isn't right to pass such a restrictive ban and not properly inform the public. People who live in unincorporated Utah County just got their 2nd Amendment rights flushed down the toilet with a 3 person vote. How is that for civil rights (i.e. the right to life, protection of life, etc.)? Don't be surprised if criminals take advantage of this discharge ban.

I think you will agree with me that more fires have been started from matches than from ricochets. Why not ban matches first?

The county commissioners are already flirting with the idea of extending the ban beyond 30 days. Who is to say they will not make the ban permanent?

As you can see, this ban involves more than shooting sports.
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I'll be glad to see a copy of the ordinance. At this point, I seriously doubt the ordinance comes right out and says something like, "If you fire a gun in self-defense, you will be in violation of this ordinance."

If that's what it says, I'd agree that it is too far-reaching. But at this point, I don't believe it.
Even if there were a legitimate concern over discharging firearms (the fact that they've not banned fireworks says to me that they're full of crap and are just anti-gun)... there's a little thing about preserving life and limb (an inalienable i.e. you-can't-give-it-up-even-if-you-were-so-stupid-to-want-to right) that has to be dealt with.

As much fun as plinking is, guns are designed for preservation of life, liberty, property.

So... I'm still unclear why they supposedly have the authority to do this in the first place?
Ok, I have the code in PDF but I don't know how to put it on the board--sorry. Can I e-mail this to someone or can someone explain to me, step by step, how to put this on the board?

NRA's 007 said:
Ok, I have the code in PDF but I don't know how to put it on the board--sorry. Can I e-mail this to someone or can someone explain to me, step by step, how to put this on the board?

See your private message.
Thanks Jeff for helping me post this. As you can see, the ordinance number has been omitted. And so was how the commissioners voted.

It's kind of scary how 3 people can make something illegal overnight.
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