Pima County hoping to pass explosive-target ordinance

Published: Aug. 29, 2017 at 9:23 PM MST|Updated: Aug. 30, 2017 at 9:22 AM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Pima County and a National Rifle Associate board member have wrapped up talks on a new ordinance that will restrict the use of exploding targets which are thought to be responsible for two fires in 2017.

An off-duty Border Patrol agent is thought to have started the Sawmill Fire in April when shooting at exploding targets near Patagonia. Another fire on Mount Lemmon, the Molino Fire, was also thought be started by an exploding target.

The targets have become popular among gun enthusiasts in recent years who get the excitement of shooting a target and watching it explode.

They are sold around the county in retail stores and come in various sizes. They have never been an issue before, but the increased popularity has now made them a target.

"We spend a lot of the year in a very dry environment with a lot of potential fire fuel," said District 2 Supervisor Ramon Valadez, who is leading the call for the ordinance. "This is not an appropriate place and time to be shooting off these exploding targets because they can cause a fire."

Under the ordinance, the sale to minors is prohibited and they can't be used on most public property.

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Failure to obey is a criminal offense but the fine is the real deterrent. The offender will be responsible to pay the cost of fighting the fire.

The Sawmill Fire cost $7.3 million to fight which the shooter, under the new ordinance, would be responsible to pay.

Todd Rathner, an NRA board member, has been working with the county to make sure the ordinance is not too broad but still protects the rights of gun enthusiasts.

He says the law looks 99.9 percent good right now.

"Overboard would be a complete ban, a ban on sale and use," he said. "We can't have that."

Rathner adds the county and the NRA have the same goal.

"Nobody in the shooting community, whether we're hunters or shooters, no one wants to see fires in our wilderness," he said. "We live in the desert, we have to be careful, so we understand sometimes you have to have restrictions."

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