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Debate continues over relaxing shooting rules in Hancock County

Canada bans assault-style weapons after shooting rampage
Posted at 5:14 PM, Oct 13, 2020

HANCOCK COUNTY — As hunting season begins, some people in Hancock County are gearing up and want to test out their scopes and equipment on their property. But an old ordinance is bringing into question the legality of doing so.

“Well, we have behind us what I thought was a responsible gun owner’s backstop,” Neil Anderson, who lives in Fortville, said.

The dirt is bought, and now Anderson wants to practice his shot.

“A lot of time and money was put into bringing all this dirt and setting it up to properly stop a firearm from going anywhere else in a dangerous manner,” he said.

As hunting season begins, Anderson got all this dirt to invest in a proper backstop for recreational shooting with his grandchildren.

“Sighting in scopes, target practice, setting up targets and shooting at them,” Anderson said.

But, as the current Hancock County ordinance stands, people cannot legally shoot guns in their backyards without special approval from the county’s board of zoning appeals, and must also be 300 feet from another person’s home.

“I’ve lived out here for almost 30 years now and I’ve never knew that law was on the books,” Anderson said.

Problem is, not many people knew about it. Officials admitted, the ordinance wasn’t often enforced.

“This has always been there kind of,” Sheriff Brad Burkhart said. "It’s just something that’s came up because of this dispute between the two neighbors here recently.”

After months of people pushing to relax the county’s rules, an amendment stood before the planning commission to do away with the special variance approval. But, planning authorities decided to keep the ordinance as is.

“Why is this ordinance in place?” Anderson said. “You’ve got the commissioners who are already saying they don’t enforce it. Then let’s get rid of the rules so we don’t have this issue.”

“Usually we don’t have to go out until somebody complains. That’s just what we do,” Burkhart said.

Burkhart said all law enforcement can do if they receive a call is make sure someone is shooting 300 feet from a neighbor’s home. But the zoning requirements fall under the board of zoning appeals.

Moving forward, he just urges everyone to be safe and respectful of their neighbors.

“That’s all I ask I suppose is that we do things responsibly," Burkhart said. "We do it safely.”