Celebratory gunfire (also called aerial firing) is the shooting of a firearm into the air in celebration. It is culturally accepted in parts of the Balkans, the Middle East, the South Asian regions of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Northern India as well as Latin American regions. In regions such as Puerto Rico as well as some areas of the United States it is practiced illegally, especially on holidays like New Year's Eve. Common occasions for celebratory gunfire include New Year's Day as well as the religious holidays Christmas and Eid. The practice may result in random death and injury from stray bullets. Property damage is sometimes another result of celebratory gunfire; shattered windows and damaged roofs are often found after such celebrations. Describing the practice, an American sheriff from Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, David A. Clarke Jr., said, "Even though some consider this a tradition, it is extremely dangerous and a violation of the law. In densely populated urban areas, this behavior is not only illegal, but it's reckless. There is no way of predicting where the bullet will land." However, it is generally not as dangerous if one uses blank rounds.
Falling-bullet injuries 
Bullets fired into the air usually fall back at terminal velocity, speeds much lower than those at which they leave the barrel of a firearm. Nevertheless, people can be injured, sometimes fatally, when bullets discharged into the air fall back down. The higher mortality is related to the higher incidence of head wounds from falling bullets. Bullets fired at lower angles than vertical can be yet more dangerous, as the bullet maintains its angular ballistic trajectory and is far less likely to engage in tumbling motion, and so travels at a speed much higher than its terminal velocity in a purely vertical fall.
A study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 80% of celebratory gunfire-related injuries are to the head, feet, and shoulders. In the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, about two people die and about 25 more are injured each year from celebratory gunfire on New Year's Eve, the CDC says. Between the years 1985 and 1992, doctors at the King/Drew Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, treated some 118 people for random falling-bullet injuries. Thirty-eight of them died. Kuwaitis celebrating in 1991 at the end of the Gulf War by firing weapons into the air caused 20 deaths from falling bullets.
Firearms expert Julian Hatcher studied falling bullets in the 1920's and calculated that .30 caliber rounds reach terminal velocities of 300 feet per second (90 m/s). A bullet traveling at only 200 feet per second (61 m/s) to 330 feet per second (100 m/s) can penetrate human skin,.
In 2005, the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) ran education campaigns on the dangers of celebratory gunfire in Serbia and Montenegro. In Serbia, the campaign slogan was "every bullet that is fired up, must come down."
Property damage 
Bullets often lodge in roofs, causing minor damage that requires repair in most cases. Normally, the bullet will penetrate the roof surface through to the roof deck, leaving a hole where water may run into the building. If the damage is not discovered and repaired, the leak can cause more costly water damage to the structure.
- Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque III noted the drop in stray bullet injuries, in that country, during the 2005 year-end holiday period – from 33 cases to 19.
- The number of complaints regarding random shooting in Dallas, Texas, on New Year's Eve declined from approximately 1,000 in 1999 to 800 each in 2001 and 2002.
- In early 2008, increased partisanship in Lebanon led to the practice of firing celebratory gunfire in support when politicians appeared on local television, leading to multiple deaths and to calls from these leaders to end the practice.
Notable incidents 
Middle East 
- November 21, 2012: Following a cease-fire ending fighting with Israel, celebratory gunfire in the Gaza Strip killed a man and wounded three others.
- October 30, 2012: Twenty-three people were fatally electrocuted after celebratory gunfire brought down a power cable during a wedding party in eastern Saudi Arabia.
- August 2012: A Kuwaiti bridegroom was killed when a friend of his accidentally shot him as he charged his gun to fire into the air in celebration.
- August 2010: 2 people were killed and 13 were injured in Jordan, as part of the yearly celebration of the announcement of the result of Tawjihi.
- July 29, 2007: At least four people were reported killed and 17 others wounded by celebratory gunfire in the capital city of Baghdad, Iraq, following the victory of the national football team in the AFC Asian Cup, Celebratory gunfire occurred despite warnings issued by Iraqi security forces and the country's leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who forbade the gunfire with a religious fatwā.
- July 22, 2003: More than 20 people were reported killed in Iraq from celebratory gunfire following the deaths of Saddam Hussein's sons Uday and Qusay in 2003.
United States 
- July 4, 2012: A 34-year woman, Michelle Packard, was struck in the head while watching the fireworks with her family. The police believe the shot could have come from a mile away.
- January 1, 2010: A 4 year old boy, Marquel Peters, was struck by a bullet inside his church The Church of God of Prophecy in Decatur, GA. It is presumed the bullet may have penetrated the roof of the church around 12:20AM, fatally wounding the boy.
- December 28, 2005: A 23-year-old U.S. Army private on leave after basic training fired a 9 mm pistol into the air in celebration with friends, according to police, and one of the bullets came through a fifth-floor apartment window in the New York City borough of Queens, striking a 28-year-old mother of two in the eye. Her husband found her lifeless body moments later. The shooter had been drinking the night before and turned himself in to police the next morning when he heard the news. He was charged with second-degree manslaughter and weapons-related crimes, and was later found guilty and sentenced to four to 12 years in prison.
- December 31, 2004: A 75-year-old man in Orlando, Florida, was mortally wounded in the heart from a falling bullet just before midnight. Police later traced the fatal bullet to a gun confiscated from a man firing into the air more than a mile away. The shooter was charged with manslaughter.[dead link]
- December 31, 1994: Amy Silberman, a tourist from Boston, was killed by a falling bullet from celebratory firing while walking on the Riverwalk in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. The Police Department there has been striving to educate the public on the danger since then, frequently making arrests for firing into the air.[dead link]
South Asia 
- February 25, 2007: Five people were killed by stray bullets fired at a kite festival in Lahore, Pakistan, including a 6-year-old schoolboy who was struck in the head near his home in the city's Mazang area.
- December 1859: An autopsy showed that a native servant in India, who suddenly fell dead for no apparent reason, was mortally wounded from a bullet fired from a distance too far for the shot to be heard. The falling bullet had sufficient energy to pass through the victim's shoulder, a rib, a lung, his heart and his diaphragm.
- January 1, 2005: A stray bullet hit a young girl during New Year celebrations in the central square of downtown Skopje, Macedonia. She died two days later. This incident led to the 2006 IANSA awareness campaign in that country.
South America 
- In the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, a person found guilty of firing off a gun during celebrations faces a jail sentence of up to 10 years.
- In Pakistan, section 144 of the law is imposed to prevent aerial firing during celebrations if harm is caused, and an FIR may be registered against a person who does so. However, many cases of aerial firing go unreported.
- In the United States, crime classifications vary from a misdemeanor to a felony in different states:
- In Arizona, firing a gun into the air was raised from a misdemeanor to a felony by Shannon's law, in response to the death of a 14-year-old from a stray bullet in 1999.
- 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 be charged with murder.
- In Minnesota, it is illegal to discharge a firearm over a cemetery, or at or in a public transit vehicle. Additionally, local governments may regulate the discharge of a weapon within their jurisdictions.
- In Ohio, discharging a firearm or a deadly weapon in a public place is classified as disorderly conduct, a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
- In Texas, random gunfire is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum one year in jail and $4,000 fine. Anyone who injures or kills someone with a stray bullet could face more serious felony charges.
- In Wisconsin, criminal charges for this type of offense range from "endangering safety by use of a dangerous weapon" to "reckless homicide" in the event of a death, with penalties ranging from nine months to 25 years in prison."
Cultural references 
The non-fiction U.S. cable television program MythBusters on the Discovery Channel covered this topic in Episode 50: "Bullets Fired Up" (original airdate: April 19, 2006). Special-effects experts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman conducted a series of experiments to answer the question: "Can celebratory gunfire kill when the bullets fall back to earth?" Using pig carcasses, they worked out the terminal velocity of a falling bullet and had a mixed result, answering the question with all three of the show's possible outcomes: Confirmed, Plausible and Busted. They tested falling bullets by firing them from both a handgun and a rifle, by firing them from an air gun designed to propel them at terminal velocity, and by dropping them in the desert from an instrumented balloon. The "busted" result applied only to bullets traveling on a perfectly vertical trajectory, which tumble on the way down, creating turbulence that reduces terminal velocity. The "plausible" result was cited because they found it was very difficult to fire a bullet in near-ideal vertical trajectory, so bullets were likely to remain spin-stabilized on a ballistic trajectory and fall at a potentially lethal terminal velocity. The "confirmed" result related to their research which verified cases of actual deaths from falling bullets.
See also 
- Shaikh, Hassan Latif (29 June 2012). "Celebratory gunfire". Dawn. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
- "Campaign in Macedonia raises awareness of dangers posed by gunfire (SETimes.com)". Retrieved 2007-08-01.
- "New Year's Eve gunfire may bring jail time". United Press International. Retrieved 2007-08-02.
- Abdul-Alim, Jamaal (2005-12-29). "JS Online: Hold the gunfire". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Archived from the original on 2007-02-08. Retrieved 2007-08-01.
- "Shannon's Law".
- "New Year's Eve Injuries Caused by Celebratory Gunfire --- Puerto Rico, 2003". Retrieved 2007-07-31.
- Incorvaia, A.N.; Poulos, D.M.; Jones, R.N.; Tschirhart, J.M. (2007-01-01). "Can a Falling Bullet Be Lethal at Terminal Velocity? Cardiac Injury Caused by a Celebratory Bullet" (abstract). The Annals of Thoracic Surgery 83 (1): 283. doi:10.1016/j.athoracsur.2006.04.046. PMID 17184680. Retrieved 2007-08-02.
- Hatcher, Julian Sommerville (1962). Hatcher's Notebook. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. p. 514. ISBN 0-8117-0795-4.
- Stewart, Michael J. (2005). Head, Face and Neck Trauma: Comprehensive Management. New York: Thieme Medical Publishers. p. 189. ISBN 1-58890-308-7.
- "Shooting in the air: turning celebration into tragedy". International Action Network on Small Arms. Retrieved 2007-07-31.
- "Serbs Told To Keep Guns Quiet On New Year's Eve – RADIO FREE EUROPE / RADIO LIBERTY". Retrieved 2007-08-01.
- "Professionals Topics Library : Roofs & Bullets". Retrieved 2007-08-02.
- Javellana-Santos, Julie. "3 Killed, Over 600 Injured in Philippine Year-End Revelry". Arab News. Retrieved 2007-08-01.
- Ayed, Nahlah (2008-04-15). "Mideast Dispatches: Deadly merriment, the fallout from celebratory gunfire". CBC News. Retrieved 2008-08-17.
- "Man killed by celebratory gunfire in Gaza". Ma'an News Agency. 22 November 2011.
- Reuters. 2012-10-31 http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/10/31/uk-saudi-wedding-electrocuted-idUKBRE89U0FL20121031?feedType=RSS&feedName=worldNews
|url=missing title (help). Retrieved 2012-10-31. Text " Celebratory gunfire at Saudi wedding cuts cable, 23 electrocuted " ignored (help)
- "Celebratory fire kills Kuwaiti groom at wedding". AFP. 22 August 2012.
- . 2010-08-20 http://www.greenprophet.com/2010/08/jordan-gunfire-celebrations/. Retrieved 2012-11-06. Text " Jordanian King Goes to War Over Celebratory Gunfire " ignored (help); Missing or empty
- Burton, Randy (2007-07-31). "Raining bullets in the Middle East". The StarPhoenix. Retrieved 2007-07-31.
- "Gunshots celebrate Iraq soccer win, leave 4 dead". Associated Press (AM New York). 2007-07-30. p. 9.
- "Soccer underdogs unite Iraqis". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2007-08-01.
- wsbtv.com. 2010-01-02 http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/falling-bullet-kills-4-year-old-boy-in-dekalb/nFDwr/
|url=missing title (help). Retrieved 2012-01-13. Text " Falling Bullet Kills 4-Year-Old Boy In DeKalb " ignored (help)
- "Stray bullet kills S Asian expat". BBC NEWS. 2005-12-31. Retrieved 2007-08-02.
- Kilgannon, Corey (2005-12-31). "Soldier Charged in Shooting Death of Woman at Window". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-02.
- Meenan, Mick (2006-06-01). "Metro Briefing : New York: Queens: Ex-Private Gets 4 To 12 Years For Manslaughter". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-08-02.
- "Man Arrested In New Year's 'Falling Bullet' Death". WKMG Orlando. 2005-01-15. Retrieved 2007-08-01.
- "History Of The New Orleans Police Department". Retrieved 2007-08-03.
- "11 Dead At Pakistani Kite Festival, Metal Kite Strings, Stray Celebratory Gunfire Claim Lives At Annual Event, More Than 100 Injured". CBS News. 2007-02-26. Retrieved 2007-08-02.
- Longmore, Thomas (1895). Gunshot Injuries, Their History, Characteristic Features, Complications, and General Treatment. Longmans, Green.
- "Bala perdida mata a una niña de tres años". Retrieved 2012-12-27.
- "Celebratory Gunfire". Citizens For A Safer Minnesota. Retrieved 2007-08-03.
- "4th of July Gunfire Reduction Program". Official web site of the Los Angeles Police Department. Retrieved 2007-08-02.
- "New Years' Eve Gunfire Can Be Deadly". MyMotherLode.com News. Clarke Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2007-08-01.
- "WTAW News Talk 1620 – News Archives". Retrieved 2007-08-02.[dead link]
- "Discovery Channel :: Mythbusters: Episode Guide". StarPhoenix. CanWest Interactive. Retrieved 2007-07-31.
- "Annotated Mythbusters: Episode 50: Bullets Fired Up, Vodka Myths III". Retrieved 2007-08-01.
Further reading 
- "Falling bullets: terminal velocities and penetration studies", by L. C. Haag, Wound Ballistics Conference, April 1994, Sacramento, California.
- UN Development Programme activity report
- Can a bullet fired into the air kill someone when it comes down? The Straight Dope
- Celebratory Gunfire: Good Idea or Not?
- 'Celebratory' shot kills groom
- Minister Henry Louis Adams Jr. Fights To End Celebratory Gunfire
- Minister Henry Louis Adams Jr. Advocates Safety