Gunfire Blamed in Dozens of Wildfires
Saturday, July 07, 2012
(photo: Utah Department of Public Safety)
The Western United States is experiencing one of its worst fire seasons ever, and gunfire is partly to blame.
More than 30 wildfires affecting five states have been caused by target shooting or other firearms, according to government officials. Utah has been the hardest hit so far with 21 wildfires. Idaho has had nearly a dozen, while Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico also have battled shooting-related blazes.
The exact number of wildfires caused by shooting is difficult to determine because federal fire report forms do not include shooting as a possible cause, although some officials enter it as a “write-in” candidate. This year the Bureau of Land Management has listed shooting as the probable cause of 11 of 31 fires in Idaho.
Some officials have asked gun owners to scale back their shooting during dry times.
“We’re not trying to pull away anyone’s right to bear arms. I want to emphasize that,” Louinda Downs, a Utah county commissioner, told the Associated Press. “We’re just saying, target practice in winter. Target practice on the gun range. When your pleasure hobby is infringing or threatening someone else’s right to have property or life, shouldn’t we be able to somehow have some authority so we can restrict that?”
Utah’s governor, Republican Gary Herbert, has authorized state forest officials to limit guns on public lands.
Steel-jacketed bullets, which can throw off sparks when they hit rocks, have been blamed for many fires. In one instance in Arizona in May, five men camping out for a bachelor party set off a fire after one of them used an incendiary shell in a shotgun.
To Learn More:
Did Guns Trigger Western Wildfires? (by Brian Skoloff and Nicholas Geranios, Associated Press)
Wildfires Spark Gun Control Debate in Utah (by Dan Rascon, KUTV Salt Lake City)
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