JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As the River City prepares to ring in 2022 with fireworks, others may think about shooting off something else. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has been warning people against shooting guns during New Year’s Eve celebrations for years.
News4JAX crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson says this is a conversation we shouldn’t need to have, but here we are.
“It does frustrate me that people still feel that they have to fire their weapons on New Year’s Eve to celebrate the new year coming in,” Jefferson said. “Simply because of the danger factor.”
Jefferson served as a patrol officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and said he responded to more reports of celebratory gunfire than he can count. Jefferson said it’s important for people to use common sense and remember that what goes up must eventually come down.
“You can shoot it straight up thinking that it’s going to come straight down in your yard or whatever,” Jefferson said. “Once it gets up there in the atmosphere and the wind takes over, you don’t know where it’s coming or going.”
Scott Deel was spending the holiday at Busch Gardens about 10 p.m. July 4, 2018, when pain seared through his left shoulder. He headed for the amusement park’s first aid center after his wife noticed blood soaking his shirt. His injury came from a falling bullet. Though it might sound like a fluke, Deel’s story is far from unique.
In January 2013, an 8-year-old boy was ringing in the New Year with family on the Southbank near the Main Street Bridge when he mentioned that his foot hurt. On closer inspection, his father found a bullet in his son’s shoe, police said. The child was taken to UF Health Jacksonville with a minor injury.
The same night, a local pilot and his passenger were flying near the Mathews Bridge downtown when they heard a loud pop and noticed a bullet hole in the window. The next thing the pilot knew, blood was streaming down his neck. He landed safely despite being grazed in the head.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bullets returning to the ground can reach speeds faster than 200 feet per second. That same report shows the most common injuries with this are to the head, shoulders and chest.
Jefferson said shooting in the air isn’t the only thing that’s dangerous.
“Then you have those that will shoot in the ground,” Jefferson said. “If it’s not directly in the ground in the earth, it could ricochet.”
As JSO said last year: “Rain Joy, not bullets. End celebratory gunfire.” If that doesn’t get the point across, the charges you face should.
Jefferson said you can be charged with discharging a firearm in public or on residential property. If you hit and kill someone, you could be charged with manslaughter.