Fire-prevention bill pulled from Utah Senate due to gun-rights criticism

Fire-prevention bill pulled from Utah Senate due to gun-rights criticism

01 February 2013

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USA — Gun enthusiasts shot down Friday, at least temporarily, a bill to allow the state forester to restrict target shooting when it would create a high risk of wildfires — a huge concern in last year’s extreme wildfire season.

Ironically, SB120 is being pushed by two gun-rights advocates. Its main sponsor is Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, and its House sponsor is Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield. Both are National Rifle Association members, and Oda is even an instructor for those seeking concealed-carry permits.

Dayton says gun activists started a war on social media against the bill, she believes, because it is the first bill this session dealing with guns and she says they are confused about what it would do. So as the Senate started to debate the measure Friday, she pulled it and told senators that she may not bring it up again.

“I think I have the votes, but you don’t want to go against the communities with which you align yourself,” Dayton said in an interview. “I’ve always been a Second Amendment rights person.”

She noted that last year after target shooting start some large wildfires, state leaders considered calling a special session of the Legislature to pass such a bill. They decided instead to allow the forester to work with local and other authorities to issue restrictions, but decided to make his authority clearer with SB120.

Dayton said she thought she had built a consensus for the bill, and it easily passed through committees. But then the social media attack began.

“Gun issues right now are just a tender subject because of the tragedies” and worry over losing gun rights, Dayton said. Even though they are fighting her bill, she said, “I’m quite excited by the fact that Second Amendment folks are so anxious to have their voices heard, because I am one of them.”

She said she will try to meet with gun rights groups to explain the need for the bill, and how she believes it does not hurt the right to bear arms. “I’m trying to give some comfort to people who feel like their rights are threatened,” she said.

Senate leaders expressed some concern that not moving the bill could hurt the state’s ability to prevent fires.

“Having the tools to prevent these wildfires saves the state a lot of money,” said Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe. He also talked of saving homes and wildlife, and preventing smoky pollution.

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