Officials warn against celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve

Stock photo of a hand holding a gun.

Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Stock photo of a hand holding a gun.

Firing guns into the air in celebration of New Year’s Eve or Fourth of July is a tradition local officers would like to see left behind.

What goes up must come down, and that simple rule of physics is why shooting into the air is still dangerous for bystanders, Atlanta Police Department spokesman Carlos Campos said.

“Any projectiles fired into the air will inevitably come down at a speed that can injure and kill,” Campos said in an email.

Bullets fired skyward fall back to earth at high speed, sometimes striking and seriously injuring people as they fall. They’ve even been known to penetrate building roofs and injure people inside. In 2010 in Decatur, a four-year-old boy was struck when an AK-47 round penetrated a church roof and struck him in the head as he sat next to his parents during a New Year’s Eve service.

The Gwinnett County Solicitor General’s Office announced Monday prosecutors will recommend a yearlong sentence for anyone convicted of “reckless celebratory discharging of firearms.” They will also ask judges to confiscate the offender’s gun and levy the maximum possible fine. Judges take prosecutors’ recommendations under consideration during sentencing, but the final decision is solely theirs to make.

Read: Gwinnett man dies after being hit by car in crosswalk

“The solicitor general’s office will continue its efforts to ensure Gwinnett citizens feel safe and secure through aggressive and innovative prosecution,” said investigator Curtis Clemons in a statement. “Further, the above measures are being implemented to deter any individuals who would endanger the public through reckless disregard of human life and safety.”

A Lilburn man was killed by celebratory gunfire on Dec. 31, 2010. Also in Gwinnett, two men were charged with shooting guns under the influence of alcohol and near public roads on Jan. 1, 2019. Each also faced a charge of reckless conduct.

“Anyone who fires into the air, whether it results in an injury nor not, will be charged accordingly if we are able to determine the identity of the shooter,” said Campos of the APD. “If someone is injured as a result of celebratory gunfire, the penalties are obviously stiffer.”

A 2004 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people struck by gunfire shot into the air are most likely to be hit in the head.

In Georgia, it is illegal to fire a gun on someone’s property without permission, within 50 feet of a public road or highway and while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Violating any of those laws is a misdemeanor offense. The solicitor general’s office prosecutes misdemeanors, while the district attorney’s office prosecutes felonies.

Anyone who sees or hears gunfire should seek cover and call 911, Campos said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report 

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The building on fire at the Landmark at Bella Vista Apartments at 4015 Satellite Boulevard in unincorporated Duluth was evacuated.