On July 1st, 2017, 13-year-old Noa Inman of Hammond, Indiana was struck by celebratory gunfire. He died from a wound to the head. Such clear cut examples are rare enough to become national news stories. wikipedia.org lists surprisingly few deaths from celebratory gunfire in their article on the subject. It lists about a dozen “notable incidents.”
If fired at a very steep angle, bullets will impact at velocities of about 300 fps or less, according to estimates of terminal velocity. Bullets from high powered rifles can maintain velocities near 600 feet per second at close to two miles. The shooterscalculator.com lists the velocity of a 180 grain .30-06 bullet at 589 fps at 3500 yards. A 7.62×39 bullet with a weight of 124 grains is listed at traveling at 575 fps at the same distance.
A 1994 study in Los Angeles concludes that 38 people were killed by “firing weapons in the sky” during the eight years of the study. Seventy-seven percent of the 118 people struck succumbed to head wounds. Those wounded had a fatality rate of 32 percent. People deliberately shot in Chicago have a fatality rate of about 15 percent.
A more recent study from Pakistan looked at “stray bullet injuries.” It showed a fatality rate of 7.9 percent for a sample of 165 patients over five years, from January 2006 to December 2010. Here’s the breakdown of injuries sustained (there were multiple injuries in 20 cases).
Chest injuries: 18 (10.9 percent)
Abdominal injuries: 102 (61.8 percent)
Spine injuries: 17 (10.3 percent)
Head injuries: 8 (4.8 percent).
The differences may stem from different definitions of “stray gunfire.” They may result from demographics, or cultural definitions, or they study’s design. And in both studies, there may be strong motivations to label gunshot wounds as “accidents” that were actually part of deliberate crimes, or tribal/gang warfare.
©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.