Tampa PD: Don't ring in the New Year with celebratory gunfire

With just a week to go before New Year’s Day, police are warning everyone to think twice before deciding to ring in 2019 with a firearm.

Each year, police say someone is injured or killed by a falling bullet, but officers hope this year's reminder that celebratory gunfire is a crime will prevent another tragedy.

Tampa police have launched a social media campaign, hoping people will realize what’s at stake before they decide to pick up a gun and fire it in the air.

“We don't have any surefire reason as to why people decide that it's a good idea to raise a gun in the air and fire it,” said Janelle McGregor, a Tampa police spokesperson.

McGregor said the department’s new celebratory gunfire PSA looks to send a compelling message to the person holding a gun, informing people that a bullet travels hundreds of feet per second and can land within a two-mile radius.

“Think about what's in that two-mile radius that matters to them. Is it other individuals? Is it pets or is it property?” said McGregor.

In 2012 Diego Duran was 12 years old when a bullet hit him in the head on New Year’s Day. He survived, but his family says he now suffers from memory loss. Most recently during New Year’s in 2018, a man was celebrating at a St. Petersburg restaurant when a bullet landed in his groin. The victim’s friend Dan Casper said they hope it’s a lesson to others.

“It’s unnerving, in today’s society, you have to tell people that if you shoot a gun up into the air, the bullet has to come down somewhere,” said Casper in January 2018. “If you’re not intelligent enough to figure that out, you shouldn’t own a gun."

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office uses technology like ShotSpotter to better track where gunfire comes from. Authorities will monitor those screens and depend on neighbors to report what they see and hear.

“You should never ring in the new year with a gun,” said McGregor.

Since celebratory gunfire is a crime, police said you could face jail time for an action you might think means no harm.