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Firing bullets is no way to ring in new year 2010
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Tomorrow is New Year's Eve, a big celebratory night for many. Celebrating the upcoming new year gives us all a sense of renewal. But for some people, New Year's Eve, in particular, presents a night of deadly threats that come, specifically in the form of intoxicated motorists and persons discharging firearms into the air. Much has already been said these past weeks about the DUI problem, so it is important to focus on the dangers of illegal firearms and fireworks as well.

In the last decade, Valley communities have come to sound like a war zone on New Year's Eve owing to all of the random gun fire that takes place. It amounts to sheer stupidity and a total disregard for the safety of others. Shooting a firearm into the air may seem "safe" to individuals who are intoxicated or who otherwise have impaired intelligence, but most everyone else knows that what goes up, must come down. It is the simple law of gravity, and as bullets return to earth, they have enough energy to penetrate roofs, vehicles, windows, pets, and, of course, human bodies.

Every year, children and adults are struck by bullets shot into the air, sometimes from miles away. Nevertheless, during the 15 or so minutes before and after midnight on New Years, thousands of rounds are discharged from firearms throughout Stanislaus County. It is a dangerous and threatening period of time, and since many of the shooting celebrants are intoxicated, it makes their handling of firearms that much more hazardous. It is also not uncommon for some people to discharge fully automatic "machine guns" into the air or ground. Shooting any firearm into the ground is also very unsafe since bullets can easily ricochet off the ground, rocks or other objects.

A person found to have been shooting a firearm into the air (or any other direction) of an urban environment will normally be charged with a felony because of the gross negligence associated with such acts. The reckless discharge of a firearm is a felony under section 246.3 of the Penal Code and carries up to a three-year prison sentence. Firearms may not be discharged in the city limits in any event, and regardless of the holiday or occasion being celebrated, there is never an acceptable reason to use a firearm as a noise-maker.

The police throughout this region will be particularly alert to the illegal shooting of firearms. And to be clear, a handgun, rifle or shotgun discharge is very distinct from the sounds of fireworks, so it is easy to hear the difference. Exploding fireworks are also illegal and dangerous, but firearms are more deadly in most cases. The police will arrest and book firearms violators into jail, while seeking the highest possible bail amounts to keep innocent, law-abiding citizens safe from these menaces who randomly shoot them.

For those who view the random shooting of firearms as a legitimate New Year's custom, a different form of safe entertainment needs to be found. It is entirely illegal, foolish, ridiculous, extremely dangerous and, simply put, stupid. Don't be stupid this year - leave the firearms in the safe where they belong, and celebrate the coming of 2010 in a safe and responsible manner.