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Refrain from firing guns, driving drunk in your celebrating
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Next Monday, Dec. 31, is New Year's Eve, one of the few events shared virtually worldwide, regardless of race, religion or country. It is highly symbolic of a new beginning; an annual renewal, a rebirth of sorts. For many people, it is a chance to set new goals and get a fresh start on things previously failed. New Year's Eve is one of the most rigorously celebrated events of the year, people like to let loose, and there are always those who go too far under the guise of celebration.

In the context of public safety, most worrisome are the people who drink too much or use drugs and get behind the wheel of a vehicle. Others discharge firearms into the ground and air, and yet others discharge illegal fireworks and explosives, all in the name of celebrating the New Year. It seems rather foolish, if not downright idiocy, but not everyone exercises sound judgment or cares about the potential for injuring or killing innocent people with stray bullets or doing the same with their vehicle as they drive in a drunken stupor. Indeed, New Year's Eve gives us a new lease on life, but for the irresponsible, it is a time to be stupid and create life-threatening dangers for innocent people who are celebrating peacefully, with hope for the good things that the New Year might bring.

Apparently the people who discharge firearms into the air or ground are either ignorant or have no concern for the safety of others. Every year, both during the Fourth of July and New Year's Eve, our communities sound like war zones with full automatic gunfire, rapid fire semi-automatic firearms being discharged and shotguns being fired like pop guns. It is an incredibly dangerous way to celebrate, and there are almost always people killed or injured throughout the country as a result of these foolish behaviours. Several years ago, an infant lying in its crib narrowly escaped being hit by a celebratory bullet. Peoples' cars and homes regularly get hit by bullets falling back to earth as a result of shots fired into the air. It is reminiscent of the video footage seen during the days of Saddam Hussein in Iraq when revelers were shooting their firearms into the air during public rallies. It was very much a third world country scene, and it is shameful that our society is now manifesting some of the same behaviors.

Regarding DUI driving, we seem to never run out of a supply of people willing to risk their lives, their passengers' and other innocent motorists. Intoxicated motorists are in rich supply New Year's Eve, and because of it, law enforcement throughout Stanislaus County are mounting a serious DUI driving offensive not only that night, but throughout the entire holiday period. This enhanced DUI enforcement effort is aided by state grant funding for additional officers to look for and arrest intoxicated motorists. The police are accepting no excuses, as they have been directed to arrest and book all DUI drivers. It seems so avoidable with the years of warnings that Californians have been given through public education and publicity campaigns; yet, there are always any number of people willing to take a chance that they can make it from point A to point B without getting in a collision or being arrested. It is perplexing to some extent, but at the same time, it tends to confirm that intoxication leads to poor judgment, and that is exactly what happens. The aforementioned is why making alternative transportation before intoxication is the best way to go - get a taxi, arrange for a designated driver and our roadways will be much safer for all!

Unfortunately, the people who most need to heed the warnings of this column are not likely to read it, but with a bit of luck, word will get out anyway. It is my sincere hope that the New Year's Eve celebrations will end with no deaths, injuries or property damage. And to the extent that law enforcement can make a difference, we will be out in full force and prepared to arrest all DUI motorists and persons discharging firearms. A "standard" DUI arrest is an expensive misdemeanor. One that involves bodily injury rises to a felony, and persons discharging firearms into the air or ground will be treated as felony suspects whenever circumstances so dictate. I wish everyone a happy and safe New Year.