Accidental Shooting

Dr. Andrew Schweitzer reveals a red spot on his chest Monday where he was struck by a stray bullet on Sunday.

DREW NASH, TIMES-NEWS

In November, a stray bullet hit a Jerome woman’s car as she was driving with her children on Shoshone Falls Road. Last year, Jerome County Commissioner Charlie Howell said he’s had a few close encounters of his own with stray bullets near the canyon. And last week, the fears and warnings of many were finally realized when a Magic Valley doctor was shot in the chest. If not for his layered clothing and a ricochet, the doctor said, the bullet could have pierced his aorta.

So let’s be proactive. Let’s prevent shooting near the canyon. And let’s do it before someone dies.

Problem is, Idaho laws say shooting can’t be restricted on land owned by the state. And the state owns a lot of canyon-rim property, including near where the doctor was shot and Jerome County commissioners have sought to designated the 4,000-acre Canyon Park, with separate areas for all kinds of outdoor recreation, including a safe space for shooting.

The county and state have been in a 14-year back-and-forth over the proposed park, access points, potential land swaps, and on and on. Meanwhile, the bullets keep flying. We can’t afford to wait any longer, especially because the Magic Valley continues to grow. There are simply too many people recreating near the canyon these days, increasingly the likelihood another accident happens soon. Do bureaucrats really want blood on their hands?

In the meantime, Jerome County is hoping to build three new access points to its land that wouldn’t require folks to pass through the state-owned land where shooting is a free-for-all. In December, Jerome County sent a letter asking the Idaho Department of Lands to restrict shooting on canyon-side state land. Commissioners have not received an official response, and Howell said the state indicated it would be several months before they did because the Legislation is in session.

According to Jerome County’s lease agreement, it has another 16 years to gain legal access to the property and complete the park. That’s an awful lot of time for stray bullets to fly around the canyon, landing wherever they may.

Let’s not wait 16 more years to make the right decision. Jerome’s county commissioners have made their intentions clear. For the safety of Idaho’s recreation, Idaho Department of Lands should do its part to finish the Canyon Park. And the gun community should embrace the county’s plans, too, which would preserve a space to shoot safely. Until then, folks with firearms should refrain from shooting in the area; this is Idaho, after all, and there are plenty of other nearby places to site your gun or target shoot that doesn’t put other people’s lives in danger.

If the lawmakers and bureaucrats and gun community get it right, they may just save a life.

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