SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill being sponsored by a Republican senator would give state forestry officials the ability to limit or restrict target shooting during fire seasons, when conditions are deemed hazardous.
Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, is sponsoring Senate Bill 120, which takes aim at target shooting and existing wildfire regulation on state-owned or unincorporated county lands.
The two-page bill would give the state forester the ability to close to the public areas where hazardous conditions exist.
Those limits include prohibiting the use of firearms in target shooting.
Jason Curry, public information officer for the Utah Division of Forestry, claims the bill is targeted at individual target shooters, not gun ranges, and aims to clarify the ability of the state forester to impose limits in select areas during times of the year when fire danger is high.
The state imposed bans on target shooting during a difficult fire season last year, and this legislation merely clarifies that authority, Curry said.
The state forester already has the authority to impose bans on campfires during seasons when fire vulnerability is high, but Curry said extending that ban to firearms deals with another matter.
"Campfires aren't guaranteed in the Constitution, like firearms."
Dayton said the bill simply cleans up state code, to more specifically detail an authority to impose bans, already assumed to be in place. She said the measure isn't aimed at limiting target practice, merely moving it to places where potential dangers can be reduced.
The use of guns on federal land is already regulated by the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service.
The state Legislature grants Utah cities the ability to enact restrictions on gun use within their boundaries, but ambiguity in the law left the governor's office unsure whether his office could do the same on state and unincorporated lands last summer.
Curry said target shooters are actually encouraged to use gun ranges during seasons when fire danger is high and shooting may ignite sparks that lead to fires in other areas not set up for target practice.
Thirty-three fires last year were directly linked to target shooting, 14 of them on the west side of Utah Lake, Curry said. One fire linked to target practice in Saratoga Springs resulted in a blaze that covered 5,507 acres before containment.
The state spokesman said the unlawful use of tracer rounds is to blame for three fires in the last five weeks across public lands in Southern Utah.