When ordinary activities become unsafe
August 31, 2004
If you could simply legislate common sense, the Nevada Revised Statutes would be a whole lot thinner. But sometimes you have to realize people will do dumb things.
That’s our take on the consideration of new restrictions on target shooting in the wake of the Andrew fire, started by a Washoe Valley man whose bullet glanced off a rock and sparked a blaze that ripped through 2,700 acres and several homes.
Activities that might be fine under ordinary circumstances just shouldn’t be done when the brush is dry and the winds are high. So if adding target-shooting to the list of restrictions – chain saws, smoking outdoors, welding – when fire danger is extreme, then by all means do it. Maybe somebody will get the message.
Still, anybody working or recreating amid the brush and timber these days should know the hazards from a spark from a vehicle traveling along a weedy four-wheel road, a discarded cigarette, ashes from a stove, or dozens of other human endeavors.
Dousing a lizard with gasoline, then setting it afire – the cause of the Autumn Hills fire in 1996 – gets into the category of reckless behavior. And that’s where the line starts getting fuzzy between responsibility for one’s actions and criminal activity.
It’s a subjective matter to start defining the sort of things people do ordinarily, and with no intent to harm, as lawbreaking acts with the changing of the weather. It’s a judgment call – akin to driving too fast for icy roads, or leaving a child or pet in a car on a hot day – that becomes definitive only when the consequences are tragic.
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Negligence is not realizing the potential results of your actions. Recklessness is disregarding those foreseeable consequences.
So adding target-shooting to the list of restrictions won’t hurt, but we might just as well say “Use your head.”
By the way, one destructive wildfire in Northern California was sparked by a lawn mower striking a rock in dry grass. You simply must be careful out there.