As Congress and the Obama administration have taken aim at guns, millions of American have risen up to protect sports shooting as well as their right to self-defense. The anti-gun talk has awakened a sleeping giant.
And so it's more than a little ironic that the same giant that would protect the Second Amendment -- a good thing -- has now managed to shoot down a common-sense bill in the Utah Legislature from Sen. Margaret Dayton of Orem.
She would like to empower the state forester to temporarily ban shooting in unincorporated areas of Utah when the danger of wildfire is high.
Standard lead or copper-jacketed bullets do not start wildfires, as we have noted before on this page -- or at least such an occurrence would be extremely rare, Utah County Jim Tracy told a journalist last year. The metallic components of quality sporting ammo are not ferrous and so do not spark.
The trouble is that there are too many shooters (a minority) who use cheap junk ammunition -- cast-offs from foreign manufacturers that can be obtained online, at some gun shops or at gun shows -- and some of that ammo does contain sparkable metals.
Worse, a tiny handful of shooters have been known to use armor-piercing bullets with steel cores, or even, unbelievably, tracer ammunition. Tracers are literally on fire using a flammable chemical compound in the bullet base. The military, primarily, uses tracer ammunition for visual reference in ground or air combat.
Tracer ammunition was blamed for a disastrous cheat grass wildfire near Boise, Idaho, in August of 1996. It was the most devastating fire to occur in the Boise foothills in 100 years. It was started when an off-duty police officer was firing tracers at a local shooting range, and one of the rounds apparently got away, out of the containment area.
So even experts can get into trouble with certain types of ammunition.
Most shooters are responsible people, and so it seems oddly irresponsible that so many would object to Dayton's bill -- so many that she was induced to withdraw it. Talk about bad timing.
This good bill's demise seems to be based on nothing but Second Amendment frenzy tied to the national controversy over gun violence.
If gun owners want credibility as they properly defend gun rights, they should avoid irrational displays of emotion that tamp down very rational ideas.
We support open shooting on public lands when it's safe, and when people don't leave their trash behind. It's unfortunate that wildcat shooting areas always seem to have more than their share of old car batteries, television sets, ragged sofas and broken glass -- all shot to smithereens. This doesn't help the reputation of shooters any more than shooter-caused wildfires do.
As to fire danger, nobody can control those shooters who choose to use ammunition that can spark flames any more than they can get them to haul off their trash. And so it makes sense to give the state forester the authority to make a judgment call.
The bill first came up after the Dump Fire near Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs, which was ignited by target shooters. The state forester's authority to close off shooting areas was called into question, although target shooting bans were imposed in some areas anyway. Dayton's bill just makes that authority clear.
It's an innocuous bill that makes a lot of sense.
Our advice to Dayton, and to the Utah Legislature generally, is to bring this bill back and pass it in this session. Let the shooters squawk if they must. What they should do is calm down.