SALT LAKE CITY — State lawmakers questioned a Utah Division of Wildlife Resources practice of forbidding human-form targets at its public gun ranges Wednesday.
Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, raised the issue during a Judiciary Interim Committee meeting after a firearms instructor in his district brought it to his attention. He said it's one thing to shoot at bull's-eye targets but another thing to have to defend yourself when someone is coming at you. Hillyard said he can relate.
"I'm pretty good at shooting clay pigeons. But when I'm out in a duck blind and I'm bringing some geese in and I see those geese coming, I get pretty nervous and excited," he said.
Hillyard said he understands "the reason that you may not want to teach people to shoot people," but there are those who want to do self-defense training at a public range.
State law does not define or prohibit what types of targets may be used at public shooting ranges.
DWR doesn't have a formal policy against human-form or silhouette targets but the practice goes along with its philosophy for hunter's education classes dating back to their inception in 1957, said DWR marketing coordinator Robin Cahoon. The course, she said, teaches hunters not to point guns at people or anything they don't intend to shoot.
"We don't want people having accidents and shooting other people," Cahoon told the committee.
The DWR neither provides nor allows gun owners to use their own silhouette targets at its ranges during public shooting hours. It does allow police departments or concealed weapons permit instructors to use them for training courses in off hours, she said.
Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, said some people are "hypersensitive to the vision of a silhouette target." But people should be allowed to bring their own targets to a public range, he said.
Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Eagle Mountain, said lawmakers need to make sure the DWR isn't overstepping its authority given that the practice can't be found in state law or administrative rules. He said it could set a dangerous precedent for restricting public access to the gun ranges.
"The range belongs to the people who pay for it, the taxpayers," he said.
Cahoon said this is the first time the issue has come up. She said the DWR is willing to talk to legislators and constituents about it.
"We want people at our shooting ranges having fun out there safely using their guns," she said.
Madsen said he intends to place the matter on the Administrative Rules Advisory Committee agenda. "It might be worth writing the rule," he said.