Stray bullets: an unexpected danger in rural neighborhoods

2 NEWS Investigates stray bullets hitting homes

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (WDTN) – It’s an unpredictable danger that has parents in one community thinking twice before letting their kids play outside. 2 NEWS Investigates uncovers the shocking amount of times stray bullets.. are hitting homes.

August 3rd of last year is a day the Harbage family won’t forget.  Their two kids were playing in the living room..when suddenly the window shattered.

“I thought maybe the kids threw something at the window. It just never even occurred to me that a bullet could have just gone through our window,” said Andrea Harbage.

That’s right, a bullet had blown through their window and landed on their couch.  After figuring out they were not the target of an attack, the true gravity of the situation sunk in.

“Had it not hit the window frame, it was in the direct line of the chair our daughter was sitting in,” said Andrea Harbage.

It turns out, that bullet traveled into the Harbage’s home because someone had been target shooting. The big shocker is, the property they were shooting from was more than two miles away.

“I had no idea it could travel that distance after it had ricocheted off something,” said Matthew Harbage.

2 NEWS Investigates did some digging and found out this same situation happened before to other families.  According to police reports we obtained from Clark County, at least six families have reported similar situations in the past three years with several other sending in written complaints about stray bullets.

Sheriff Gene Kelly said he’s hearing about these accidents more and more every year since gun sales have gone up.

“We’ve had reports of farmers in the fields combining and their cabs being hit by bullets, we have bullets going through houses..through dry wall,” said Sheriff Gene Kelly.

One bullet was lodged into the back of a refrigerator, another barreled through a child’s bedroom window.
Sheriff Kelly says thankfully no one has been hurt so far..but he wants practices to change before the luck does.

“Once you pull that trigger, you are liable to where that bullet goes,” said Sheriff Kelly.

That means if that bullet hit something or someone, the gun owner could be charged, but Sheriff Kelly says rules to prevent that from happening in the first place don’t exist. Many gun owners will use a backstop like this to shoot into that stops the bullet, but 2 NEWS Investigates found those are not required.

Sheriff Kelly said he would like to see that change.

“There needs to be a standard in backstops, a standard in regulations that allows law enforcement to do inspections and there would be some kind of penalty for this random, unsafe practice of just firing at will,” said Sheriff Kelly.

While the Harbage’s say the people responsible for their window learned a lesson and have since apologized, they hope their story can serve as a wake up call to target shooters to be extra careful.

“We are not out in the west. It’s not wide open. There are many things that those bullets can hit before your target,” said Andrea Harbage.

Sheriff Kelly says this is not a “gun” issue it’s a safety one. He says while he supports the right to bear arms, he hopes people will take a second before they shoot to think about where that bullet is going.

Coming up Thursday on 2 NEWS at 6, 2 NEWS Investigates asks gun experts what they recommend to keep neighborhoods safe from stray bullets and we get a local lawmaker’s thoughts about making backstops mandatory.

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