Governor Gary R. Herbert announced today that no changes to state law are necessary to reduce fire risks in the state. He added that State Forester Dick Buehler has authority to limit the discharge of firearms in unincorporated areas.
"Following a meeting with Speaker of the House Rebecca Lockhart and President of the Senate Michael Waddoups, we have agreed that a special legislative session is not necessary," the Governor said in a press conference late this afternoon. "Additional laws will not enhance public safety. After thorough legal review we made the determination that the State Forester has sufficient authority to limit or ban any use of firearms in unincorporated areas of the state where conditions are extremely hazardous."
Governor Herbert emphasized that such determinations will not be arbitrary. "The State Forester will gather input from county commissioners and sheriffs and carefully consider all factors that influence fire risk before limiting firearm use," he said.
"We are experiencing extremely dangerous fire conditions right now," Buehler said. "We have received four Fire Management Assistance Grants in one week - topping the 2007 record of three in one year. Humidity is low, temperatures are high, and we still have a long summer ahead."
The State Forester has authority to either entirely close unincorporated areas to certain activities or to implement limited-use restrictions, if he finds the conditions in a given area are extremely hazardous. Temperature, humidity, soil moisture, and fuel moisture will be taken into account for each area under review. Incorporated areas remain the responsibility of cities and their leaders.
"I believe we have struck a proper and prudent balance between the rights of gun owners and public safety," the Governor said. "This does not limit anyone's right to carry firearms. But to all Utahns, I repeat our warning. Please be cautious, be careful, and know that your actions have consequences."