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South Bend ordinance to make ‘irresponsible shooters’ pay $2,500 fine

December 17, 2015

Revised ordinance targets people who shoot guns in air to celebrate holidays

Firing a gun in South Bend is about to get a whole lot more expensive if you do it illegally. The Common Council passed a new ordinance this week, setting a maximum fine for shooting a gun irresponsibly.

Right now -- it's up to South Bend police officers to write the ticket for discharging a firearm and then decide how much of a fine someone should have to pay. The current ordinance allows that amount to be anywhere from $1 to $2,500.

But when the new ordinance goes into effect at midnight on December 25, the fine for shooting a gun illegally in city limits will be $2,500. The change is designed to target people who shoot guns in the air to celebrate holidays such as New Year's Eve and Independence Day.

"A lot of times I keep the kids in the house just for safety reasons," said Laquana McKinney, who lives on Bowman Street. "The kids are out here playing, I'm hearing gunshots so I bring them inside."

McKinney said she hears gunshots at least three or four times each week.

"It's very dangerous," said Common Council President Tim Scott. "We don't want anyone to do it."

Last year in South Bend, ShotSpotter showed more than 200 shots fired in 70 different incidents on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

"It was lit up like a Christmas Tree," Scott said, describing the ShotSpotter technology.

Scott added he worked with police Chief Scott Ruszkowski to make the irresponsible gun ordinance stronger.
"A lot of people go outside and think it's harmless to shoot a firearm into the air," Scott continued. "Typically the bullet comes down at 300 feet per second - which is pretty much the speed of some firearms - and does damage to cars, houses, people."

That's what happened in Niles Township in 2010. A Niles man fired three shots into the air to welcome the New Year then shot his best friend to death while they were loading guns. A judge sentenced him to jail time.

"Bullets don't have eyes," McKinney said. "Once people shoot it, the bullet can go anywhere. It can travel anywhere and hit anybody, you know?"

The mother of three added she's all for any ordinance that keeps her family safer.

Part of South Bend's new ordinance that got crossed out before the council passed it was a line that allowed police to confiscate a gun shot in the city illegally. That line was also not in the copy the mayor signed Wednesday and is not part of the new law.

Other cities have similar ordinances. In Mishawaka, for example, the fine for shooting a gun irresponsibly is up to the officer who writes the ticket.