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After extensive thought regarding the firearm discharge ordinance presented to the Lake County Council for consideration in unincorporated areas, I thought I would present my views on why I voted no in extending the distance that an individual could legally discharge a firearm from their property line.

The existing ordinance stated that a firearm could not be fired within 300 feet of their property line. The new, amended version would have made the distance 700 feet from their property line. My concern, having been a police officer who attended the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy with extensive firearm instruction, was that a projectile discharged from a firearm can travel well over a mile. Extending the distance 400 feet would not make the situation any safer, in my opinion. If a property owner discharges a weapon 1,500 feet from their property line but the bullet travels 2,000 feet, we are putting people and property in danger, and the shooter could claim they were well inside their property line.

The answer to the problem with irresponsible gun owners is to enforce the existing state law of “criminal recklessness.” This state law makes it illegal for anyone at any distance to discharge a firearm that could cause damage to property or life at any distance. We do not need to extend the distance that a property owner can discharge a weapon from his or her property line; we simply need to have the state law enforced so no projectiles (bullets) leave their property.

For this reason, I have had in-depth conversations with both Sheriff Oscar Martinez as well as county Police Chief Bill Paterson, and they have assured me the irresponsible people who are acting in violation of criminal recklessness will be dealt with accordingly.

Under any and all circumstances, please call 911 immediately should you feel anyone is discharging a weapon in a manner that you feel is, or could be, injurious to yourself or someone else.

It has been my experience that an overwhelmingly majority of gun owners are responsible and support gun safety. As a matter of fact, it is the legal, responsible gun owners who demand gun safety. It is the irresponsible guns owners who need to be held accountable, regardless to how many feet they are from their property line. The state law regarding criminal recklessness will be enforced by the Lake County Sheriff's Department to its fullest extent.

It is my goal as a County Council member to keep people safe while recognizing a person's right to lawful ownership and discharge of weapons.

There have been some very heated discussions on this particular matter, but it is my thought that cooler heads must prevail. Everyone must respect each others' position even if they disagree. I am sure that many will disagree with my stance on this issue, but I felt it necessary to express it.

David Hamm, D-Hammond, is a Lake County Council member. The opinions are the writer's.


Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.