It’s a reckless, foolish way of celebrating the stroke of midnight — firing a gun into the air. But despite the obvious risks, stray bullets continue to be a dangerous problem on New Year’s Eve — both in South Florida and across the nation.
On Monday, Miami’s “One Bullet Kills the Party” campaign continued what is now an annual ritual: Warning the public that celebratory gunfire can easily lead to serious injury or death.
“I know people are very happy, and they want to celebrate,” Miami City Commissioner Wifredo “Willy” Gort said during a morning press conference, later posted on YouTube. “Celebrate some other way. Put your guns away.”
Said County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson: “Those bullets that go up in the air will come down they can fall on someone, a human being, a child, someone’s property. But they’re coming down, and we do not know where they’re going to land.”
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Miami’s current public-awareness campaign has been supported by well-known local rapper Pitbull, who appears on some of the promotional materials. In an interview, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said Miami-Dade County has had two New Year’s holidays in a row without any injuries or deaths from stray gunfire. Regalado said he’s hopeful the message is getting through.
Even if no one gets hurt, firing a weapon in the air is a crime, Regalado said.
“They know that if they get caught, they’re going to go to jail,” Regalado said. “That’s a third-degree felony.”
A 2012 UC Davis study found that celebratory gunfire accounts for only about 5 percent of stray-bullet injuries, but nearly a third of the victims are children.
There are plenty of examples that support that study’s findings. Four years ago, a 6-year-old boy from Italy, visiting South Florida with his family, was struck by a bullet while at a Design District restaurant.
The bullet passed through the boy’s lung and landed near his heart. He recovered, thanks to emergency surgery, but the incident generated worldwide (and unflattering) headlines.
Two years ago, a 12-year-old Tampa-area boy landed in a coma after being struck by a stray bullet — a bullet that authorities believed was fired into the air from somewhere miles away.
Then, a year ago, 10-year-old Aaliyah Boyer died from her stray-bullet injury — the Pennnsylvania preteen was visiting relatives in Maryland and had stepped outside just after midnight to watch a fireworks display. Struck in the head by a stray bullet, Aaliyah suddenly collapsed. She died after two days on life support.