One of the well-accepted conditions of a good party is that nobody gets shot. Celebratory shootings can take away that peace of mind, and the Hernando County Sheriff's Office is encouraging residents to bring in the new year without stray bullets falling at speeds in excess of 200 feet per second.
"For many communities, it's the time of year when some people celebrate the festivities by firing gunshots into the air," Public Information Officer Denise Moloney wrote. "Illogical thinking we agree, because we all know that what goes up must come down; and in these cases, it's bullets moving at deadly speed."
And sometimes from more than a mile away, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, which investigated celebratory shootings in Puerto Rico. The study was conducted during the two-day period between Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, 2004, in which bullets fired from celebratory shootings proved sufficient to penetrate a human skull.
The average age of the 19 persons injured from celebratory gunfire that year was 24 years, the report shows, and 12 of those were male. Four persons were hospitalized, including one person who died from a head injury. The most common body location for injury from celebratory gunfire was the head at 36 percent, followed by the foot at 26 percent and shoulder at 16 percent.
"In years past, many people have been seriously wounded or killed by falling bullets on New Year's Eve," Moloney wrote. "Those tragic deaths and serious injuries, which resulted from stray bullets, have motivated Sheriff (Al) Nienhuis to remind everyone that stray bullets can injure or kill innocent bystanders."
The Hernando County Sheriff's Office will be taking a zero tolerance stance on any and all illegal gun use and gun crime during the holiday, according to a release issued by the sheriff's office.
"There are many ways to safely celebrate and bring in the New Year," Nienhuis said. "Discharging a firearm is not one of them. It's just too easy for people to get hurt. Leave the firearms at home, in a safe and secure location."
If anyone hears gunfire or sees anything suspicious, they are encouraged to call their local law enforcement agency, according to the release.