Move to open Utah's police/military gun ranges to public stalls

Feb 15 2013 - 1:10am

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Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross

SALT LAKE CITY -- An effort by a local lawmaker to open access to police and military shooting ranges has run into a delay for the second time in a Senate committee.

The legislation being run by Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, would allow groups to access ranges currently used only by law enforcement or the military.

The measure, SB 107, addresses only ranges built with public funds.

The bill was stalled in committee Thursday after 40 minutes of testimony and will be brought for reconsideration next week.

Christensen vowed to work with local lawmakers and groups who oppose the bill to come up with a workable measure.

It is the second bill this session dealing with shooting ranges that has run into a delay.

A bill being run by Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, limiting access to target shooting on public lands during times of high fire danger, also faces opposition and is waiting for further review by the Senate.

Originally scheduled for hearing weeks ago, the bill on police and military shooting ranges was pulled by Christensen for further consideration. He brought back a modified bill that allows groups, not individuals, access to target ranges. The groups would be required to make a reservation and include a certified range instructor.

Rosalyn Rainey, of the Unified Police Federation, argued police ranges should not be opened to the general public. She said access to an indoor range in Salt Lake City would be difficult because officers need access to the range 24/7.

"Our range exists for our officers," Rainey said.

Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Lehi, took Rainey's testimony to task.

"Who pays for the facility? Who do the police work for?" he said.

Matt Price, of the Utah National Guard, also opposed the idea of opening military gun ranges to the public. He cited concerns with liability and asked the committee to seek advice from the Attorney General's Office on how federal lands can be used.

Christensen has said not enough ranges are accessible to the public, especially in the winter.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said he hopes the bill will be modified to specify how many hours a publicly owned range can be accessed.

He also asked for a provision where law enforcement could potentially reserve access to some public facilities and specify the reasons.

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