There's devoted. There's extreme. And there's utterly absurd. And the idea that the Second Amendment would in any way be infringed by a bill that would have allowed the Utah state forester to restrict target shooting in times and places where it would create a wildfire hazard is absurd, to say the least.
Such a bill SB120 was being put forward by two of the Legislature's more confirmed gun rights supporters, Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, and Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield. It would merely empower a state official with relevant jurisdiction and knowledge to tamp down the risk of the kind of wildfires that did so much damage and caused the state so much expense last summer.
Passage seemed likely last week. The measure won approval of two different Senate committees without a dissenting vote. It also had the backing of the Utah Farm Bureau, whose members are worried about damage to their property, as well as some of the same law enforcement officers who have pledged such fealty to the gun rights of Utahns as to threaten to arrest any federal agent who might be so bold as to seize any Utah citizen's firearm.
But, just when the bill was to be taken up Friday by the full Senate, Dayton pulled it from consideration. There was, she announced, a new flurry of opposition to the bill, mostly in the form of online commentary and complaints.
But look hard enough, and you can find a highly engaged Internet fellowship to be against practically anything. Look a little harder, and you can see just how little real and accurate information is included in those exchanges.
Dayton had the facts and logic on her side, and the bill should be resurrected just as quickly as possible.
By July of 2012, state officials counted some 20 wildfires that had been accidentally set, clumsily, by people playing with their guns out in the tinder-dry bush. Just one of those, called The Dump Fire, burned more than 5,500 acres in the Saratoga Springs area and cost taxpayers some $2 million. Altogether, various levels of government spent $50 million fighting wildfires last summer.
The state forester, meanwhile, already has the power to restrict public access to certain areas and to ban open fires in places where a wildfire hazard is strong. The power to ban target shooting, in the same places and for the same reason, is only a logical extension.
The right to bear arms is meant to protect lives and property. When those who abuse that right clearly threaten lives and property, the government has the power, the duty, to limit that behavior.