A domestic dispute between two couples and a relative ended with an accidental discharging of a firearm within city limits.
Police officers were dispatched to a call that someone had discharged a firearm within city limits and discovered a car speeding away from the scene. After pulling over the vehicle, officers discovered a car overloaded with people, two of which were injured. One was suffering from a head injury while another had a gunshot wound to the foot. Returning to the area in which the firearm had been discharged, officers were able to determine the individual’s head injury and the other person’s bullet hole in his foot to have been the result of a domestic dispute that had become violent. The shooting was accidental, yet the man with the weapon will likely face charges for assault for pistol-whipping the individual with a head injury, brandishing a weapon in a threatening manner, and discharging a firearm within city limits.
Utah is thought to be a more gun friendly state, yet there are strict laws and ordinances in place regarding where guns are allowed and where they can be discharged. Utah law 76-10-508 warns: “A person may not discharge any kind of dangerous weapon or firearm:
(i) From an automobile or other vehicle;
(ii) From, upon, or across any highway;
(iii) At any road signs placed upon any highways of the state;
(iv) At any communications equipment of property of public utilities . . . ;
(v) At railroad equipment or facilities including any sign or signal;
(vi) Within Utah State Park[s] . . .;
(vii) Without written permission to discharge the dangerous weapon from the owner or person in charge of the property within 600 feet of . . . a house . . . or any structure in which a domestic animal is kept or fed”.
Discharging a firearm within city limits
Beyond the above listed areas, Utah law does not specify where in a city firearms are lawful to be discharged. Utah Code 53-5a-102 states “All authority to regulate firearms is reserved to the state except where the Legislature specifically delegates responsibility to local authorities or state entities.” Many counties or cities have their own ordinances pertaining to discharging a firearm within city limits. The city of Springville where the domestic dispute resulting in accidental discharging of a firearm was reported states in statute 8-3-102 that “except as permitted by subsection (2) [regarding hunting in rural areas during designated seasons], it shall be unlawful for any person within the limits of the City to discharge any rifle, gun, pistol, air gun, bean shooter, flipper, sling shot, or any other instrument which expels a projectile, except in self-defense, or, in the case of target shooting, upon issuance of a permit by the Police Department. “
Self-defense or Castle Doctrine
There are some occurrences when discharging a firearm within city limits would not result in criminal charges. Some such instances include self-defense cases when a person is found to be justified in using a weapon to protect themselves. Additionally, while state and many city laws prohibit firearm use near a residence, Utah homeowners are allowed to defend their home from dangerous intruders. This freedom to protect a home and its residents is known as Castle Doctrine.
Check with your local area
Besides in instances of self-defense or Castle Doctrine, all Utah residents should be aware that brandishing a weapon during an altercation or discharging a firearm in city limits will likely be frowned upon by law enforcement. Others who may want to engage in innocent target shooting or “air-soft wars” may want to check with their local area ordinances prior to engaging in any such activity that could result in criminal charges.