Stock police photo
Times file photo

Many of our Region's rural areas are transforming into a mixture of open farmland and residential subdivisions.

The growth is important to increasing Northwest Indiana's tax base and creating new housing stock to attract and retain residents.

Trigger-happy neighbors with guns, who once treated these areas of the county like Wild West shooting galleries, should no longer be tolerated.

We're seeing more and more reports of this problem.

Winfield in Lake County is one of the fastest growing Region locations in terms of new housing stock and population.

Recently, a Winfield homeowner reported to police and the town that a stray bullet fired on an adjacent property entered his home, traveled through his bedroom and a closet and struck a bathroom shower, resulting in $1,500 in damage.

Far worse than the cost in property damage was the potential cost to lives.

The bullet appeared to have resulted from several minors target shooting from a vacant lot near 113th Avenue.

Regardless of who fired the shot, such behavior is the worst possible example of gun ownership.

Rural subdivisions are swelling with existing and new residents, including families with children. Errant gunfire from target practice or hunting on nearby farmland cannot be tolerated by police or the municipal or county government leaders who preside over these areas.

In another reported incident, unincorporated Lowell-area resident Duane Ward had the ear of Lake County Councilman Eldon Strong last week at Strong's county government office.

Ward complained that neighbors of his rural neighborhood have been firing off guns and other explosive devices near his property for some time.

As his area becomes more congested with homes and residents, Ward is asking county government officials to review ordinances — and for county sheriff's police for better enforcement of laws meant to protect citizens from endangerment.

We couldn't agree more with Ward's sentiment.

And such incidents aren’t exclusive to rural areas. Earlier this month, 13-year-old Noah Inman died after being hit in Hammond with a bullet that someone apparently fired into the air as part of Independence Day revelry, police said.

How many tragically preventable outrages must occur before something is done?

Our Region is changing. Families are increasingly occupying land that once was open range. It's a reality of growth.

Responsible gun owners would never consider firing weapons within close proximity to where children play in yards or on neighborhood sidewalks or where families sit down to dinner.

Those bent on being irresponsible need to be hit with the full letter of the law.

Lives are at risk. No gun ownership or land rights trump the safety and security of citizens.

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Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editorial Page Editor Marc Chase, Editor Bob Heisse, Politics/History Editor Doug Ross and Managing Editor Erin Orr.