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Although they both heard the shot, neither Tony Ferraro or his girlfriend Suzanne Cannon realized a stray bullet had struck their home on the 2000 block of Bird View Road in Westminster on Sunday.

"She asked me if I had got up into the drop ceiling because there was a mess on the carpet," Ferraro said in an interview on Monday. "We didn't even notice the bullet hole until later that night when we looked up and saw it. We put two and two together."

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A bullet had pierced the couple's family room window, a fragment of which had come to rest beside the coffee table, according to an email Cannon wrote to the Times. Police are investigating the incident.

"Fortunately no one was hurt, but we are very concerned because it was nothing other than luck that prevented injury or death resulting from a bullet fired too close to a residential property," she said.

Cannon and Ferraro called the Carroll County Sheriff's Office, which sent a deputy to the scene Sunday to begin the investigation. However, it is unlikely the shooter will be identified, according to Maj. Charles Rapp. It's entirely possible, Rapp said, that a hunter or target shooter was not even aware that a stray round struck the house.

"This is pretty rare, I am not aware of any other complaints like this that have occurred this year," Rapp said.

Hunting and target shooting is common in the area surrounding the couple's home, according to Ferraro, who said he enjoys target shooting on his own property, and he believes the round must have come from a nearby cornfield. He was not as concerned about the incident as Cannon, but was put off that he would have to pay to replace the window, since no one had come forward to take responsibility.

"No big deal, it doesn't really bother me that much," Ferraro said. "But they are supposed to know where their bullets are going, you know?"

There are regulations hunters are supposed to follow, according to Rapp, chief among them never aiming in the direction of an occupied dwelling, not hunting within 150 yards of a dwelling and having permission to hunt on property if it is not one's own.

Those regulations do not apply, however, when it comes to target shooting, where shooters are only required to be outside of a 30-yard range, according to Sgt. Robert Ford, coordinator of the Maryland Natural Resource Police Hunter Safety Education Program.

"If you are hunting … within 150 yards of an occupied dwelling, and you do not have permission [of the occupant], you are in violation of the law," Ford said. "If you are 40 yards away from that same place and you are on your property, you can target shoot till the cows come home."

Both range limitations, 150 yards for hunting and 30 for target shooting, are superseded by local regulations in some jurisdictions: All of the eight Carroll County municipalities, with the exception of Union Bridge, ban the discharge of firearms within their limits for instance.

The open season for hunting for deer with rifles was already over on Sunday, according to Ford, so it is possible the bullet that found its way to Cannon and Ferraro's coffee table came from a target shooter — although someone could also have been hunting out of season.

Regardless of the rules of how close a shooter can come to an occupied dwelling, Ford said, of greater importance is the fact that a shooter's responsibility for the lead they fire does not end at the muzzle aperture.

"It is a big deal, because when you are utilizing a firearm and you fire five rounds, how many of those are you responsible for? Every one of the five," he said.

That means whoever fired that bullet should really be the one buying Ferraro and Cannon a new window, and would have been liable should someone been injured, according to Ford.

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At the same time, Ford said, when it comes to hunting accidents, it's more common for hunters to fall out of trees than to injure someone or damage property with a firearm.

Anyone who finds their dwelling has been struck by a bullet should call law enforcement, according to Rapp, and Ford suggested calling even when you may have concerns about the legality or safety of someone's shooting.

"The best thing you could do is before somebody goes to confront someone else, call us," Ford said. "It's a lot easier for any police if you are having trouble with a neighbor where they are shooting and you don't think it's safe."

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More information

Shooters should always be aware of where they are shooting, both the targets and what is beyond the target: They are legally responsible for every round their fire.

Hunting within 150 yards of an occupied dwelling is illegal.

Target shooting within 30 yards of an occupied dwelling is illegal.

Shooting of any type is prohibited in all Carroll County municipalities, with the exception of Union Bridge, where the 150/30 yard distance limitations apply.

If you have concerns about someone using a firearm near your dwelling, call the Maryland Natural Resources Police at 410-260-8888 or dial 911. The shooting may be legal and safe, but law enforcement is in the best position to determine this.

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