Just before midnight on New Years’ Eve in Houston, Texas, a sleeping 8-year-old boy was shot in the hand. Less than 20 minutes later, a 24-year-old Houston woman arrived at the hospital after being shot in the stomach. Both were the consequence of unfortunate celebratory gunfire. Even more tragically, the woman was shot by her own grandfather.
What Is Celebratory Gunfire?
Throughout the world, it’s common for people to discharge a firearm into the air on holidays. This is known as celebratory gunfire, and it’s been around for over 100 years. The most prominent times for celebratory gunfire are New Year’s and July 4th in the US.
Most people believe that celebratory gunfire is harmless, especially in states like Texas or Florida, which are notoriously pro-gun. But that’s simply untrue. Stray bullets from holiday celebrations have caused quite a bit of damage and injury—and in many cases, death.
Research shows that celebratory gunfire, unless heavily regulated and prepared for, is very dangerous and inappropriate in the community setting. “What goes up must come down” is an age-old expression that reigns true in this case. Bullets that make their way up into the sky can and will come down with lethal force.
The Texas Issues
2021 started off with the worst kind of bang for those two innocent young people in Houston. The 24-year-old woman was struck in the stomach by a bullet fired by her grandfather in their backyard. Javier Villalobos, her 70-year-old grandfather, was under the influence of alcohol and shot his firearm multiple times. The consequential shot that pierced his granddaughter’s stomach landed him in custody facing an aggravated assault charge.
The other story, involving an 8-year-old boy, was very different, but the catalyst for the issue was the same: celebratory gunfire. The boy was sleeping in his bed New Years’ Eve. At 11:50 pm, a stray bullet from outside of the home struck him in the hand. A stranger shot the gun and the injury was completely unintentional.
This is the main concern about celebratory gunfire. Regardless of intention, property damage, personal injury, and ultimately death are very potential consequences of unchecked gunfire.
Staying Safe from Celebratory Gunfire
It should be obvious by now that the tragedies in Houston weren’t a one-time thing. All across the country, stray bullets fired in celebration have caused all sorts of damage. The Lakeland Police Department Assistant Chief shared that even deputies seek cover during the most common times. As citizens, however, there is much you can do in order to avoid injuries from celebratory gunfire:
- Do not engage in unnecessary gunfire. Find an alternative source for celebration. Where they are legal, fireworks are great. Many people choose to use pots and pans as noisemakers! Anything that isn’t a gun is immediately a safer alternative. Across the nation, the punishment for celebratory gunfire varies from a class A misdemeanor to a felony. It’s not worth it!
- Organize your local community. Spread the word and advocate in your local community groups to stand against dangerous celebrations. Plan to do things with others outside the home that do not involve discharging firearms.
- Prepare inside the home. At the end of the day, there’s only so much to be done in the prevention of celebratory gunfire. As an individual, it is worth preparing inside your own home in response to the potential of stray bullets. Sleeping away from street-facing walls and windows, moving furniture, etc. are all great examples of being proactive during celebrations.
In Serbia, in October of 2013, wedding guests firing their guns off in celebrations actually downed an aircraft. Hopefully we never see a problem that great here in Florida, but it’s good to recognize the issue. Be extra careful in urban areas like Tampa where population is denser. Take responsibility in your own hands and remember that what comes up must come down.