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Celebrate the New Year safely!
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New Year's Eve arrives this Saturday, Dec. 31 and it is one of the few calendar events shared by most everyone around the world. There is great symbolism to the ending of one year and the beginning of a new one. For some people, it gives them a sense of a fresh start and a chance to leave bad memories behind. For yet others, the beginning of a new year marks the time to stop bad habits, to make positive life's changes and to seek new opportunities. here is also the benefit of having an extra day or two off from work along with a time to celebrate and party.

The New Year's Eve celebration period is also one when there are deadly threats from people who discharge firearms into the air and ground. It is particularly dangerous when shots are fired within or around city limits where many people live in a concentrated area. And each year, without fail, the area we live in turns into one where thousands of rounds are discharged for about a 15-20 minute period. This shooting fest starts just before midnight and continues for a while afterwards. Those 15-20 minutes sound a lot like a war zone (and to some extent, it can be as deadly as actually being in one), complete with the sound of shotguns, semi-automatic rifles and handguns and even fully automatic firearms. It is an absolutely amazing display of idiocy, illegality and total disregard for the safety of others.

Discharging firearms as a celebration is not limited only to New Year's Eve; the same problems also occur on Cinco de Mayo and the Fourth of July, but the amount of shooting is not quite as intense as on New Year's Eve. The stray bullets from exuberant celebrators (who more often than not are drunk or under the influence of drugs) kill or injure numerous people throughout the state. Unfortunately, there are too many cases when an infant in a crib is struck, or some other totally innocent person is struck by the errant bullet. And it is not unusual for people to emerge from their homes the next day to find bullets lodged in their cars and their homes. Livestock and pets also fall victim to the results of these shooting fests.

I can only wonder why there are so many people who are willing to take the risk of injuring or killing someone else. Or are these simply mindless acts committed by the brain-dead who either don't think at all or who believe that the bullets somehow vaporize or otherwise fall harmlessly to earth? When a firearm is discharged into the air, a bullet can stay in flight for close to a minute, it can travel as high as 2 miles, and fall back to earth with as much speed as 500 feet per second - which is more than enough to penetrate cars, windows, roofs, walls and, of course, the human body.

Shooting a firearm into the air is a felony. If the bullet kills someone, the person responsible will be charged with murder. Shooting a firearm into the ground (within the city limits or in other locations where there are people), constitutes a misdemeanor crime. Irrespective of the legalities, it should be enough for every citizen to contemplate the dangers of shooting firearms into the air. It is a no-brainer: enjoy the beginning of the new year safely and responsibly, and keep firearms out of the celebration picture. Have a happy New Year!