Is it legal? Gun range debate pits neighbors against neighbors

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PUTNAM COUNTY, Ind. (April 24, 2015) - There's a battle brewing in one central Indiana community over a gun club, with neighbors fighting neighbors over the right to shoot. Some Hoosiers believe that club is operating illegally, and now county officials are investigating.

Deb Cheek is a nationally-known three-gun shooter and champ. She and her husband Bob are also the owners of We The People Gun Club, about eight miles outside of Greencastle.

"Before, I wanted a public range, and now I get to have a private range," she said.

Cheek showed us around the three pistol shooting bays and one rifle bay. It's a small part of the county now getting a lot of attention.

"It's you know, certain ones that aren't happy with us being here," she said.

The Cheeks tried to get their land rezoned from Agricultural 1 to Agricultural 2 back in 2010 so they could have a gun range. County officials denied the request, but the Cheeks built a range anyway, one they call private.

It's angering neighbors who contacted FOX59 after seeing advertisements for shooting events on Facebook. Some neighbors said they feel the Cheeks are skirting the law.

"Wouldn't you think having people in this area is doing what you were told you couldn't do in the first place?" asked FOX59's Kendall Downing.

"No, because it's a private range. It's not open to the public. I do private events," Deb Cheek said.

Jim Ensley is the attorney for the Putnam County Board of Commissioners. He said a landowner contacted him a week ago with the issue. He's investigating the zoning ordinances and says the county needs to determine how big the private events are to see if there are violations.

"Certainly, if it's a situation where if they've already been denied and decided to go forward with it anyway, that's definitely of concern with the commissioners and the planning commission," he said, "It all depends on how many people are out there. I think the definition of public and private is a subjective one."

Neighbors in the area said they know the issue is dividing the small community.

"It bothers several people," said Josh Gibson, who lives nearby, "I guess I see both sides of it. Obviously if they're not zoned for it, they shouldn't do it. Personally it doesn't bother me, but I'm kind of neutral on it."

Deb Cheek has an event Saturday which she said could be cancelled because of weather. It may not be the only storm she'll face, but she said bring it on.

"Life's not easy. I'm ready for a battle. I believe in what I do. I'm not bothering anybody. I bring money to the county, and I've not done anything wrong," she said.

Ensley said if the Cheeks are found in violation it could include fines and legal action.