Police to crack down on firing guns in the air on New Year’s Eve

December 30, 2009
Santa Paula Police Department

Although for the past several years New Year’s Eve has been on the quiet side when it comes to people firing guns into the air as the clock strikes midnight, this year Santa Paula Police will be conducting a crackdown on the illegal - and highly dangerous - activity.


According to SPPD Lieutenant Troyce Reynolds, beefed up law enforcement will be on the streets Thursday evening as 2009 segues into 2010.


“We’re going to have extra patrol cars out, even unmarked, to make sure people aren’t shooting guns in the air... we’re going to take it very seriously and deal with it. It is,” he noted, “against the law to discharge a weapon in city limits... we have an ordinance against shooting inside the city limits” that carries various punishments.

Although acknowledging past years have been on the quieter side, this year there is concern because New Year’s Eve kicks off a long holiday weekend. “It’s going to be a little more of a concern because of the weekend,” but “all our cars will be out that night, including unmarked, so we will be closely monitoring the situation,” Reynolds said.

“People have to understand that bullet is traveling at a pretty fast speed, and when coming down it can seriously injure someone, if not kill them.” In addition, as 2009 merges into 2010 there will be a full moon and, although unmentioned by Reynolds, there is a longstanding belief La Luna can adversely affect people’s emotions and actions.

“If we can keep it down early with a show of presence,” Reynolds said he expects incidents of firing into the air will be kept to a minimum, if not eliminated. In past years the SPPD has “had a couple of incidents where a bullet fired in the air” was found the next morning by mobile home residents who reported the find to police. Other incidents have involved vehicles struck by a bullet and some cases of shattered windshields.

Aside from the local ordinance, in California discharging a firearm into the air is a felony punishable by three years in state prison. If the stray bullet kills someone, the shooter can also be charged with murder.

And the possibility of killing someone by firing into the air is mind-boggling: According to national studies, the mortality rate among those struck by falling bullets is about 32 percent, compared with the up to about 6 percent mortality rate normally associated with gunshot wounds. The higher mortality rate for those struck by a bullet is the result of the high incidence of head wounds from falling bullets, even when found to be fired from more than a mile away.

“Not only is firing into the air against the law,” said Reynolds, “but it’s reckless.... There is absolutely no way to know where a bullet fired in the air will fall.”

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