COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Police around the country have urged residents against the dangerous practice of shooting off guns to celebrate the New Year and warned of criminal charges against those who do.
In Columbus, Ohio, Deputy Police Chief Richard Bash said Friday that police will charge anyone caught firing a gun on New Year’s Eve.
Bash said the shooting is dangerous and ties up officers who must investigate numerous gunfire reports. If people can safely record evidence of a shooting on their phones they should submit it to police, he said.
“We need a culture change,” Bash said. “We need the community to step up and say, ‘This is not the behavior that we’re willing to put up with.’ When that happens, it will help.”
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The city has recorded a record-high 142 homicides this year, which is three above the total set in 1991 during the crack cocaine epidemic.
Police in Kansas City, Missouri, have also warned residents against firing guns in celebration and told them to call 911 if they see someone shooting and try to talk friends and family out of the idea, according to Sgt. Jake Becchina.
The issue especially resonates in Kansas City, where an 11-year-old girl died after being struck by a stray bullet on July 4, 2011.
Police in Florida also want an end to celebratory gunfire, which Freddy Ramirez, Miami-Dade Police Department Assistant Director, calls “irresponsible.”
“We’re trying to educate our children for a safer world, and as adults we’re cranking rounds up in the air — unacceptable,” Ramirez said at a Thursday news conference .
The girl killed in Kansas City is far from the only victim of such celebrations. In 2015, a man watching New Year’s fireworks from his driveway in southeastern Houston was killed by a stray bullet from celebratory gunfire nearby. Later that year, a 16-year-old girl was struck and killed by a stray bullet as she sat on a couch inside her home in College Park, southwest of Atlanta, on July 4.
Columbus resident Lisa Boggs made ending celebratory gunfire a personal cause six years ago. She was on the phone with her son on New Year’s Eve, when she hit the floor because of the sound of gunshots.
“It was like Baghdad. Gunshots were so intense,” said Boggs, 57, who lives on the city’s west side. She said she has spent the past few days going door-to-door in her neighborhood trying to educate people about the danger.
“A moment of celebration, a moment of revelry, could mean a lifetime of hurt and heartache should one of those bullets come down,” Boggs said.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.