Celebratory Gunfire – A Year Round Vigilance

Celebratory Gunfire - A Year Round Vigilance
Celebratory Gunfire - A Year Round Vigilance

While we are past celebrating July 4 and will soon be coming up on several holidays, it may be time for a reminder.

In Atlanta, on March 28, 2011, the Georgia House of Representatives today passed House Resolution 341 by a vote of 139 to 23. Introduced by State Representative Michele Henson (D-Stone Mountain), this legislation serves to increase public awareness of the dangers associated with celebratory gunfire. (source: HR 341 Celebratory gunfire; promote public awareness; urge)

All across America and especially during holidays like July 4 and New Year’s Eve, many celebrate by firing various calibers of bullets into the air. Aside from property damage, celebratory gunfire has resulted in death or injury to the recipients of those bullets falling back to the ground. In Puerto Rico, for example, about 2 people die and about 25 more are injured each year from celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve.

In Georgia this year, Gwinnett police Detective J. Rowell testified at a preliminary hearing that two men fired at least 31 shots from their front porch New Year’s Eve, one of which penetrated the window of a house across the street. The bullet struck Sergio Martinez, 34, in the head while he stood in the kitchen, preparing to ring in the New Year with relatives.

Sadly, and again in Georgia, New Year’s Eve 2009 celebratory gunfire killed a young boy, Marquel Peters while he was in a church with his parents.

“WHEREAS, on a cold New Year’s morning shortly after midnight, a young four-year-old boy, full of great promise and innocence, sat obediently before God at his church; and

WHEREAS, as this peaceful young boy worshiped, the air outside was split by the startling sound of a weapon fired in celebration of the coming new year; and

WHEREAS, the bullet from that celebratory gunfire unintentionally and tragically pierced the church’s sanctuary killing that beautiful, loving little boy named Marquel Peters.”

The mortality rate among those struck by falling bullets is about 32%, compared with about 2% to 6% normally associated with gunshot wounds. The higher incidence of head wounds from falling bullets contributes to the higher mortality rate. Between the years 1985 and 1992, doctors at the King/Drew Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, treated some 118 people for random falling-bullet injuries. Thirty-eight of them died. Kuwaitis celebrating in 1991 at the end of the Gulf War by firing weapons into the air caused 20 deaths from falling bullets.

In the United States, some law enforcement agencies are turning to a program called “Shotspotter“.

From the manufacturer:

Recognizes Gunfire and Explosions from Non-Threatening Sounds

The ShotSpotter GLS uses a network of acoustic sensors to detect and locate gunfire and explosive incidents. When an event is detected by three or more sensors, data is transmitted to ShotSpotter’s patented location software, which properly identifies the event as gunfire, fireworks, explosion, or a non-threatening sound. All everyday sounds such as car backfires, dump trucks, and nail guns are automatically filtered, allowing users to focus on important events.

Provides an Accurate Location of Gunfire

ShotSpotter location software triangulates the location of the incident, providing an exact location and nearest address. This offers responders better situational awareness and supports strategic and tactical response.

Mostly; however, law enforcement agencies rely on the populace to report gunfire, regardless if celebratory gunfire is the cause. Such was the case where an errant neighbor of mine decided to wake me with the shots of a 9mm on a fresh Sunday morning. He decided to let his wife fire his new pistol into the backyard – with a house less than 75 yards away! While not “celebratory gunfire”, the endangerment factor was high.

In some states, it is illegal to engage in celebratory gunfire and can lead to an arrest and possible conviction. Of course, these laws do not prevent celebratory from happening, it simply “protects” the citizenry by prosecuting those who engage in the practice.

Many cities and a growing number of metro counties have a complete ban on the discharge of firearms (except in self-defense). Other cities and counties have a ban on discharging a firearm within a certain distance from a road or a neighbor’s house or land owned by the city/county. For Georgians, check Municode.com to see if your local ordinances are online. For other “law-abiding” citizens, check your local firearms codes. Most local laws; however, comply with state law.

Not all gun owners follow the practices of safe gun handling and not all those licensed to operate a motor vehicle do so safely (without alcohol in their system, or without texting, reading a book, putting on make-up, etc.).

For those of us who do follow safe gun practices, we should support our local enforcement agencies, and other organizations, in their efforts to curb the practice of “celebratory gunfire” and make it a year-round obligatory effort. While I may have a metal roof on my house, it is by no means bulletproof.

You can read more about Marquel’s Pledge. Perhaps we can inform businesses that cater to firearm’s owners to remind their customer’s of the hazards of “celebratory gunfire”, at any time, and help prevent the needless injury or death of somebody else.