Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"This is Chief Wiggum reporting a 314 - waking a police officer."

On August 6th, I went shooting with some of my friends. We went up the north side of Farmington Canyon to the same place I went shooting during my last blog entry on the topic. It's sometimes referred to as "the Firebreak Road" or "The Lake Bonneville Shoreline". It's a place I've researched given the applicable restrictions and verified as compliant with all relevant laws. In fact, I have shot there several times before, and all the folks in my party had shot there before, too. However, there had been a fire on the south side of the canyon just a few weeks prior which was started by people shooting in the foothills. Keep that in mind as I recount my harrowing tale of a run-in with "The Man".

I'm pretty sure this is how all people in Farmington
picture people shooting in the foothills

We met up at around 8:30 and drove up to the park at the base of the trail. We pulled our guns out of the truck and picked up our boxes of targets which consisted of old computer parts and DVD player that had betrayed me after I went to all the effort of hauling it back and forth across the country.
You're dead, traitor.

We brought with us a pump-action .22 Winchester, some Czech WW-II era gun, what I think was a K-98 Mauser (maybe Boy can verify this for me), and a couple of handguns. Nothing too special. Anyway, we began shooting at some boxes and our old electronics which we had placed on the south-facing hill in front of us. Keep in mind that there is a road that runs up the canyon, but it is across the river from where we are and more than the required distance away. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed taking out my revenge on my traitorous DVD player (although it didn't ping when hit like I had hoped).

After about half an hour of shooting, we heard a woman's voice calling to us from through the trees on the other side of the canyon. Here's roughly how the conversation went:

Woman: You can't shoot here!
Us: We've looked into it and we can!
Woman: No you can't!
Us: Yes we can!
Woman: No you can't!
Us: Thanks, have a nice day!

And we got back to shooting. About ten minutes later, a very irate-looking female Forest Service Ranger and a male Davis County Sheriff's deputy came walking up the trail. The Forest Ranger had drawn her gun, but not pointed it at us (this is apparently called "presenting" - an unfortunate term in her case) and asked if we were unarmed. We had already laid down whatever guns we were holding, and responded that we were.

You have the right to shut up, Timmy.

Here is roughly what followed:

Ranger: Did you know you're not allowed to shoot up here?

Us: No, we've checked it out and we can.

Ranger: No, you can't. Did you not hear me yelling at you earlier?

Us: We did, but you didn't identify yourself so we thought you were just some random person.

Ranger: Well, you can't shoot up here.

Us: We've checked with the Sheriff's office and the US Forest Service website and we can.

[I began looking this up on my phone.]

Ranger: No, you can't. Had you called dispatch today, they would have told you no.

Us: We've called the Sheriff's office before and they said it was okay.

Ranger: When was that?

Us: A couple of months ago.

Ranger: Well, they wouldn't have said that because you can't shoot below 7,000 ft in these hills.

Us: Really, when was that put into place? Because we've been here many times and never had a problem.

Ranger: For a couple of years now. You have ID?

[We handed over our IDs.]

Us: Well, we've never heard of this restriction before.

Ranger: Well, it's been on the books for a couple of years. You know what happened up here last week?

Us: Yeah, a fire was started by some people just over there on the other side of the canyon. But they were shooting at explosive targets.

Ranger: What are you shooting at?

Us: Boxes and old electronics. You can see them right there.

Deputy: Well, I can hear your ricochets going off ping, ping.

Us: We haven't heard any.

Ranger: Well, I'm not going to give you a ticket today, but I'm taking your names down so we know that you know the next time we catch you.

By this point, myself and one of my friends were ready for a fight. We were both fired up and ready to argue with this Ranger until she let us keep shooting. I had looked up the restrictions on the Davis County Sheriff's website and the Forest Service website for the Wasatch-Cache National Forest and had not seen any 7,000 ft restriction. In fact, that was the first I had ever heard of it. I was thinking to myself, "Go ahead and give me a ticket. I want to know what specific law I'm violating. Plus, I'd love to see you arrest us because I'll just act as the attorney for these other guys and we'll fight the ticket."

We'd be patriots, like all those people in jail.

However, one of my friends who was obviously very nervous about the whole thing asked if we could just pack up and leave. The Ranger agreed and the Deputy asked us if we were picking up our "brass". We had been and so we combed the area and left.

If there's another way to present information, I'd like to hear it.

On the way back and later that afternoon, I did some research into this alleged 7,000 ft restriction. Here's what I found out:

On August 24, 2010, Davis County passed the 7,000 ft restriction. http://www.co.davis.ut.us/calendar_item.cfm?calendar_item_id=5424

Then, a number of people complained, citing to Utah Code Section 53-5a-102 which states, "Unless specifically authorized by the Legislature by statute, a local authority or state entity may not enact, establish, or enforce any ordinance, regulation, rule, or policy pertaining to firearms that in any way inhibits or restricts the possession or use of firearms on either public or private property." http://le.utah.gov/~code/TITLE53/htm/53_05a010200.htm This means that only the State can limit the use of firearms - counties cannot.

In response to the letters and the obvious problems with the law, Davis County convened two weeks later on September 7, 2010 and repealed the law at the insistence of deputy county attorney Gerald Hess. http://www.co.davis.ut.us/calendar_item.cfm?calendar_item_id=5511

I also checked the Forest Service laws to see if they had passed anything or made any restrictions. Use of Forest Service land is governed by the Code of Federal Regulations, which includes the restrictions we were already familiar with. http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/cfr_2010/julqtr/36cfr261.10.htm

As the incident unfolded, and upon later reflection, I came to the conclusion that the Ranger and the Deputy knew that they had no authority to stop us from shooting, but rather, wanted to get us off the mountain because of the fire the week before. This makes sense in light of the fact that the Sheriff's Deputy didn't really say anything to corroborate what the Ranger was saying, and because I talked to my neighbor who is a Davis County Sheriff's Deputy and he thinks the same thing, because getting someone to agree with you after only presenting them with your side of the story is the strongest evidence you can have.

Now that I've shared this with you, you idiots better not ruin it for the rest of us. And stay the hug away from my spot.

[Ed. note - I'm performing an experiment with this post. I have inserted a number of labels designed to increase potential traffic. I'm curious to see how it will shake out.]

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