Jul 3, 2012 9:28 PM by Siera Santos
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - In the tinder-dry West, campfires, fireworks and even lit cigarettes are banned across public lands. Another fire-starting culprit, however, remains free of most restrictions: guns.
This year, officials believe target shooting or other firearms use sparked at least 21 wildfires in Utah and nearly a dozen in Idaho. Shooting is also believed to have caused fires in Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico.
Those concerns come as states grapple with ways to cut the risk of new fires ahead of the Fourth of July holiday when many people shoot their guns to celebrate the nation's independence.
Gun rights advocates were skeptical that firearms use can cause so many wildfires.
Firefighters are contending with one of the busiest and most destructive wildfire seasons to ever hit the West.