Officials Warn Against Ringing In The New Year With Gunfire

Billboard warning of celebratory gunfire risks (pic: Brian Bull); handgun photo by Flickr.com's CherryPoint.
Billboard warning of celebratory gunfire risks (pic: Brian Bull); handgun photo by Flickr.com's CherryPoint.
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Across Cleveland, electronic billboards proclaim, “STOP CELEBRATORY GUNFIRE. IT IS ILLEGAL BECAUSE IT KILLS.”

CPD Police Sergeant Ali Pillow says even though a bullet falling back towards earth doesn’t have the same velocity as when first fired, its speed is still sufficient to cause serious harm to anyone struck by it. And Pillow says pulling out a gun - even to mark a New Year - brings additional dangers.

“People are out celebrating, but neighbors are calling, or residents are calling, police are responding to a call for an individual with a gun. And that’s always a dangerous situation. So again we’re asking people….celebrate, enjoy yourselves….but leave the guns in your safes, in your lockboxes, put those away.”

Gary Wilgus is Special Agent Supervisor with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification. His own testing with a 9-millimeter handgun shows that while a falling bullet has less velocity than a freshly fired round, it’s still dangerous.

“If you shoot that gun at 90 degrees into the air -- I mean straight up into the air -- that bullet’ll go straight up, loses velocity, comes back down to earth…it is still falling at impact, when it hits the ground, at 556 feet per second. And that is more than sufficient to cause death and significant injury to someone.”

There have been documented cases of people dying from falling bullets. On New Year’s Eve in Georgia four years ago, a toddler died after a bullet pierced the roof of a church and struck him in the head. Investigators believe the shot was fired half a mile away, and the shooter probably never realized his bullet killed someone.

And in 2011, a young Amish girl died in Holmes County, after a hunter trying to clear his gun shot in the air and hit her a mile and a half away.

Billboards warning against celebratory gunfire are also up in Columbus.

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