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Hammond aims to end reckless gunfire with new ordinance

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Mother, aunt of slain 13-year-old Hammond boy press state representatives to hear stray bullet legislation

Shannon Burczyk, center, stands by a photo of her son, Noah Inman, who was shot and killed by a stray bullet in 2017. After multiple efforts to curb reckless gunfire at the state-level were unsuccessful, Hammond has now introduced an ordinance that would make it unlawful to fire a gun in the city. 

HAMMOND — A little over five years ago, 13-year-old Noah Inman was killed after after being hit by a stray bullet. The tragedy led to multiple unsuccessful state-level efforts to curb gun violence, and now city leaders are taking matters into their own hands. 

Inman was playing basketball on the evening of July 1, 2017 in the 7300 block of Harrison Avenue when he was struck by a falling bullet shot into the sky, possibly to celebrate Independence Day, by an unknown person living nearby, according to police.

In 2018, state Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, proposed legislation in the Indiana General Assembly that would make it a level 6 felony to fire a loaded gun into the air within city or town limits without legal justification. The legislation did not receive a hearing. 

In 2020, state Representatives Michael Andrade and Carolyn Jackson also proposed legislation that would criminalize shooting a firearm without justification in a city or town. The bill did not received a committee hearing.

Now, Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., City Council President Dave Woerpel, D-5th, and Councilman Scott Rakos, D-6th, have filed a proposed ordinance that would make it "unlawful for any person to fire or discharge a firearm of any kind or nature whatsoever within the city."

The ordinance would also hold parents or guardians responsible if a minor violates it. Violating the ordinance constitutes a civil nuisance, which allows the city to take civil action against the offender. The offense is also punishable by a sizable fine. Violating each provision within the ordinance would constitute a separate offense. 

The city announced the proposed legislation in a news release Thursday morning. 

Noah King Inman

When the Hammond Police Department receives reports of shots fired, officers are often able to find physical evidence that ties the incident to a specific residence, McDermott said. 

"Gun violence is plaguing our country and we are not exempt in Hammond," McDermott said. "People still think it is appropriate to fire guns in the air ... if we can pin it to a house then we can go after them for a financial penalty."

Reckless gunfire has also caused ample building damage in the city. McDermott said the roof of the Hammond Sportsplex has been marred by falling bullets. 

After seeing little success addressing needless gun violence at the state level, McDermott said the proposed ordinance is something that is within the city's "power to do."

“We honor Noah and remember him and I believe filing this ordinance on the anniversary of this unspeakable tragedy is the right thing to do," McDermott said. "We are trying to do what the Indiana General Assembly refused to do and that is shameful."

The ordinance will be heard on first and second reading during Monday's 6 p.m. City Council meeting.

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