Santa Paula Times

Few incidents of firing in the air reported New Year’s Eve

January 06, 2010
Santa Paula Police Department

A Santa Paula Police crackdown on revelers firing in the air as the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve proved to be effective, at least by the low number of incidents reported. 

Last week the SPPD announced it would be sending out extra patrol officers - including those driving unmarked vehicles - to roam the city and try to catch those firing guns in the air in the act. Although acknowledging that past years have been on the quieter side, in a pre-New Year’s interview Lieutenant Troyce Reynolds said this year there was heightened concern because the change from 2009 to 2010 also kicked off a long holiday weekend. 

According to Sergeant Ryan Smith, the SPPD “didn’t get that many calls, five or six, a mix of fireworks and gunshots,” as 2009 segued into the New Year. In fact, “I think the majority were just fireworks,” as Smith said the SPPD had “officers in the neighborhoods who would call in and say they heard” the reported explosions, but “it was definitely fireworks” and not gunfire.

Santa Paula has an ordinance that makes it illegal to discharge a firearm, and California law deems discharging a firearm in the air is a felony punishable by three years in state prison. If the stray bullet kills someone, the shooter can also be charged with murder.

And the possibility of killing someone by firing into the air is mind-boggling: according to national studies, the mortality rate among those struck by falling bullets is about 32 percent, compared with the up to about six percent mortality rate normally associated with gunshot wounds. The higher mortality rate for those struck by a bullet is the result of the high incidence of head wounds from falling bullets, even when found to be fired from more than a mile away.

“Not only is firing into the air against the law,” Reynolds said last week, “but it’s reckless. There is absolutely no way to know where a bullet fired in the air will fall.”