It’s taken nearly 20 years and a string of gun nut-sparked wildfires for state leaders to rethink their less-is-more approach to the Second Amendment.
After a spike in gang-related violence, former Salt Lake City Mayor Deedee Corradini took matters into her own hands in 1993, launching a handgun buyback program and requiring a waiting period and background checks before gun sales in the city.
Horrified Utah lawmakers slapped down the liberal mayor two years later, passing legislation that prohibits local governments from enacting gun control rules tougher than state law. In 1999 and again in 2004, they doubled and tripled down on their Father-Knows-Best gun rules.
But there were consequences: Besides turning Utah into a one-stop shop for concealed weapon carriers nationwide, the state ban on local gun restrictions has allowed target shooters to set up wildcat gun ranges around the state. And local leaders have been powerless to do anything about it.
Two years ago, gun owners shooting at clay pigeons and flammable targets sparked 20 wildfires. Last year, 24 fires were blamed on country target practice. Already this year, 19 wildfires have been credited to gun owners.
Now, after years of doing their darnedest to turn Utah into the second-most armed state in the country, Gov. Gary Herbert and conservative lawmakers are reconsidering (just slightly) the gun-lovers’ paradise they’ve created.
On his blog last week, Herbert opened the door to more local control: “We must do all possible to prevent human-caused fires, encouraging local jurisdictions to appropriately regulate use of fireworks and firearms if necessary,” Herbert said.
And the Daily Herald reported that Orem Republican Sen. Margaret Dayton (no lily-livered gun controller, by any means) has opened a bill file to allow government to ban target shooting in some areas of the state.
“I want to protect gun rights, but not at the cost of the safety of others,” Dayton said.
That’s the kind of 180-degree ideological turn that happens when part of your district goes up in smoke.