The Dump fire in Utah, touched off by ricocheting bullets sparking dry cheatgrass, became the 20th wildfire this year caused by target shooters. Many states, including Utah, are prevented from imposing emergency gun controls.
Some of the wildfires scorching the West this year were sparked by unusual culprits: Gun owners. Or, more specifically, gun shooters.
As with the Dump fire in Utah, which flared hard enough on Friday to force the evacuation of 1,500 homes and 9,000 people, nearly two dozen conflagrations, officials say, have started accidentally by careless target shooters whose bullet sparks touch off dried-up pinon and wild grasses.
“Now is not a good time to take your gun outside and start shooting in cheat grass that’s tinder dry,” Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said Friday.
While authorities can ban certain fire-related activities when fire risks are high, that’s not true with guns, the carrying and use of which are staunchly protected by state and federal law, including several recent Supreme Court decisions.
In Utah, for example, a state law prohibits the state from enacting emergency bans on guns, putting Gov. Herbert in a position of instead asking county governments to issue emergency rules for outdoor gun use as wildfire conditions prevail across the West.
In North Carolina, gun rights activists have successfully fought legal battles to make sure governors can’t ban guns during emergencies.
Moves to protect gun owners from emergency gun bans is an emerging front in the national debate over gun rights.