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There’s a long and idiotic tradition of firing guns into the air to celebrate the change of the calendar. It’s a blatant violation of Jeff Cooper’s 4th rule of gun safety, knowing your target and what’s behind it. The bullet can come down almost anywhere.

Out in the country the likelihood of that projectile hitting something of value is relatively low, but the probability increases exponentially when you get into an urban area. In cities like Detroit, it’s been a persistent annual problem. One woman was sent to the hospital this past New Years’ when a stray bullet fired into the air somewhere near downtown Austin struck her in the leg.

Victoria Rocha, 35, was transported to University Medical Center Brackenridge with a gunshot wound to her leg.

Rocha tells KXAN she and her fiance had just parked minutes before and walked down to 6th and Brazos. She sat down on a bench across from the Driskill Hotel to rest her feet, and called her son at 12:03 a.m. to wish him a Happy New Year. …

Austin Travis County EMS rushed her to the hospital where Rocha says doctors removed a 45 caliber bullet that had traveled from the front of her left thigh to the back.

Gun ownership is a constitutionally protected civil right, but it also comes with responsibility. Incidents like this give anti-gunners ammunition (so to speak) for their claims that private gun ownership is simply too dangerous for civilians. So please, celebrate responsibly. And don’t fire a gun into the air, especially in the middle of a densely populated city.

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  1. I swear people do not give it a thought that the bullet must come down somewhere. Too many people have even been killed this way. One guy did not want to properly unload his muzzle loader so he fired it into the air; the projectile killed a 12 year old girl one full mile away that had the same last name as his, but not related. Stupid actions lead to unwanted results. Lucky the woman in Austin was not struck in the head; the 12 year old in this incident was.

  2. I’ve never understood how it is celebratory to fire into the air. I’m lucky enough to be able to shoot in my backyard, so I have “gone shooting” to celebrate, and it does sometimes make me more exorbitant in the number of rounds fired, but it is still at targets with a backstop. Unless one just wants to make noise, in which case blanks are cheaper than live rounds, so just on that basis alone wasting live rounds is idiocy, to say nothing of the dangers. I simply cannot see any ‘fun’ in shooting at nothing…
    4. “Know your target AND what lies beyond it!” -Col. Jeff Cooper (Ret)

    • “Unless one just wants to make noise, in which case blanks are cheaper than live rounds …”

      Actually, I am pretty certain that blanks cost more than live rounds. Go figure.

      (While the material cost of live rounds are obviously greater than the material cost of blanks, sales of blanks are minuscule and I imagine the tooling and setup up costs for manufacturing blanks outpaces the savings in material costs.)

    • By the way, when I have an urge to make noise on a holiday, I just fire into the grass/dirt almost straight down. Unless there is an unknown large rock just beneath the surface, there is zero chance of any injuries. And even if there were a large rock just beneath the surface, the only person who would possibly suffer any injuries is me.

      • ‘Bird Bangs’ in 12 ga. make dandy celebratory ammo.

        “Bonk!” (thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand-) BOOM!!!”

      • Well, even if a certain area has no blanks available, anyone with a pair of pliers, a piece of cardboard, and enough muscle power to squeeze two handles together can remove the projectile(properly known as a “bullet”, NOT a cartridge) and replace it with a paper wad. And still possess the bullets to reuse or sell, and thus create a blank round for cheaper than a loaded one.

    • The anecdotes above suggest is doesn’t just happen in the Middle East. I suspect alcohol is frequently involved even if not required.

    • It’s not regional. Stupidity knows no boundaries. It has happened in Baltimore for years and there have been incidents in the city where people have been wounded by “celebratory” rounds discharged without a thought as to where they’re going to land. Sir Isaac Newton published his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687, so it’s not like nobody is aware that “What goes up must come down.”

  3. Happens around Richmond, VA all the time. I was at a highly populated July 4th fireworks event in 2013 where a little boy was killed when a bullet landed on top of his head. Culprit was never identified.

    When my company opened up this morning we discovered rainwater streaming into the work shop through a couple newly acquired bullet holes. Our building’s management company pulls down bullets and patches holes in the roof every year around Jan 1 and July 4.

  4. Oh man this could EASILY occur in my neighborhood south of Chiraq. Gun fire galore on NewYears Eve. One blast sounded like a freakin’ invasion. I had the shotgun ready and told my loved ones stay away from windows. It may be worse on the 4th of July but lots of those are fireworks. And the po-leece do NOTHING…?

    • po-leece … I love it. I haven’t heard that since I was a teenager!

      In all fairness to the police, I don’t see how they can do anything about irresponsible celebratory gunfire unless someone just keeps shooting continuously for 20 to 30 minutes … which is almost impossible from a practical standpoint.

  5. OMG it’s illegal to discharge a weapon in city limits anyway. In the air or otherwise. People are stupid.

    Though, on the subject, firing a shotgun into the air would probably be the smartest thing to do if you want to fire a gun. Those pellets aren’t going to go far and probably won’t have lethal velocity when they do come down.

      • As I understand it, no seasoned dove hunter hasn’t been “rained on” by a careless partner on the other end of the field. Wear your safety glasses, y’all- and a hat!

    • And it’s relatively easy to pour the shot out of a shotgun shell and use it as a blank. Refill it with candle wax if you really need to build some pressure in the mechanism.

  6. I’ve had several boxes of .223 blanks (given to me) for several years, now, and I STILL can’t find any inclination to go shoot them off just to make noise on July 4 or Dec 31 Just seems silly somehow. Fireworks make noise, but they’re PRETTY! Firing off live ammo seems pretty retarded. And if you really feel that need, why the hell not shoot them into the ground? Just stupid.

  7. Does a 230gr fired straight up actually have enough energy to go most of the way through a woman’s thigh when it comes back down, or did some idiot not even get the ‘up into the air’ part right?

    I guess the answer would depend on whether it penetrated nose first or base first. If base first, it was fired straight up.

    • All solid objects fall at 130 MPH, would not matter which end hit or sideways. The slugs also do not fall in the same orientation as fired & can tumble in the air. Even buckshot have killed from considerable distances.

      • “All solid objects fall at 130 MPH”

        Good grief! Did you read that on the internet somewhere?

        • I know better than to believe that all solid objects fall at the same speed. The very concept of terminal velocity is that all objects do not fall at the same speed. I should have said they didn’t know what terminal velocity is.

        • Reggie is right. Not all objects fall at the same speed. Terminal velocity is achieved when the drag force of a falling object equals its weight, but drag, in turn is influenced in large part by the shape of an object. There are a number of factors that will influence terminal velocity, which will vary from one object to the next. And of course, terminal velocity only applies here if we’re assuming the bullet came straight down, parallel to the force of gravity, which it very likely did not. If it was falling at an angle, then there would be an “x” component to its trajectory, which means the total velocity at impact was very likely greater than terminal velocity.

        • “… If it was falling at an angle, then there would be an “x” component to its trajectory, …”

          Did not think of that. Thank you.

      • Actually, Mythbusters did a special on just this. It’s nearly impossible for a bullet to travel exactly upwards (which would result in a fall maximizing at terminal velocity). Most bullets actually retain a ballistic trajectory (arc) and carry a much higher velocity.

        • Not the clip I was hoping for, but a lead-in to the larger experiment.

          They did reach the final conclusion that a bullet fired STRAIGHT into the air would not necessarily be fatal on return, but that a bullet fired at anything less than straight up could in fact retain enough velocity to be fatal.

      • “All solid objects fall at 130 MPH”

        unknown — seriously, you need to stop this. You’re dead wrong.

        Simple example: Felix Baumgartner (a solid object, I’m sure you would agree) clocked in at 833.9 miles per hour in his skydive during the Red Bull Stratos project.

        • In an ideal setting with no drag objects continue to accelerate at 32 ft/sec/sec. The higher the apex of the bullets trajectory, the greater the velocity.

    • If it was a .45 and it did penetrate her leg my guess is that it wasn’t fired strait up as that way it could have stayed nose forward where it had the BC to retain enough speed to penetrate. A Hornady 230 FMJ is still at nearly 500fps at 1000 yards if it stays nose forward. If it fell tumbling from its apex, the terminal velocity would, according the numbers I was able to find, be under 300fps where it would have only 46ft-lbs of energy.

    • Going straight up, the bullet will reach apogee and tumble/fall back down, but it will reach terminal velocity. Most handgun bullets will stay under the 200 fps needed to penetrate skin and not too dangerous (but still incredibly stupid to do). The more dangerous case is when the gun isn’t perfectly vertical, which is usually the case. At 45 degrees, a 1000fps bullet will be traveling 700 fps up and 700 fps horizontally. By the time the bullet falls back down, the horizontal component will only have been slowed by drag, and the combined velocity components could still be over 700 fps upon impact 20 seconds later and a couple miles away. These are back of an envelope estimates — maybe someone will run it through a ballistic simulator and get better numbers.

  8. Such an effing shame that this has to be said at all. I saw it happen once in East Savannah. My gf and I were sitting on the front porch smoking a cigarette, when a car with big chrome rims and tinted windows stops in the street in front of us. The back window rolls down about six inches, and a hand comes out, holding a stainless revolver. He emptied it into the air, and drove away. Dick.

  9. If you go up to the top of a tall building, etc & drop a 1# ball or 100# ball, both hit the ground at the same time.

    • You can’t make that statement with the information given. Moving through a gas or liquid creates a force in the opposite direction of movement. If you are dealing with acceleration due to gravity, then when the force from the resistance of the medium equals the force from gravity, then the velocity increase stops (this is terminal velocity). If your #1 and #10 ball experience the exact same resistance from the atmosphere OR if they are falling in a vacuum, then your statement is correct, but if the #10 ball has a larger diameter than your #1 ball the resistance will be different and they will land at different times.

      The pound of feathers and pound of lead experiment only works in a vacuum. Here, for your education:

  10. Of course, the infamous 0.9 mm round leaves a 3″ barrel at almost 40,000 feet per second, so it will just go into deep space. No worries!

    Oh, wait, you need to know where satellites are … so rule 4 still applies. Drat.

    • This is cut and pasted from your link:
      “More massive objects will only fall faster if there is an appreciable amount of air resistance present.”

      Hint – In the earth’s atmosphere, there is an appreciable amount of air resistance present. If you don’t believe me, then go study “terminal velocity” and learn something.

  11. I have to think these guys know what they are talking about when it comes to terminal velocity:

    The terminal velocity equation tells us that an object with a large cross-sectional area or a high drag coefficient falls slower than an object with a small area or low drag coefficient. A large flat plate falls slower than a small ball with the same weight. If we have two objects with the same area and drag coefficient, like two identically sized spheres, the lighter object falls slower. This seems to contradict the findings of Galileo that all free falling objects fall at the same rate with equal air resistance. But Galileo's principle only applies in a vacuum, where there is NO air resistance and drag is equal to zero.

  12. If this discussion continues much longer I am going to be forced to reconsider my position on gun control.

    • This is cut and pasted from your link:
      “More massive objects will only fall faster if there is an appreciable amount of air resistance present.”

      Hint – In the earth’s atmosphere, there is an appreciable amount of air resistance present. If you don’t believe me, then go study “terminal velocity” and learn something.

  13. RE TERMINAL VELOCITY. No one ever shoots perfectly
    90° vertically. A boo-lit will come down in an arc sometimes at high speed. SEE:Mythbusters(one the did right!).

  14. I agree this is never a good thing to do, but I’d like to point out, that the lady in the above example was almost certainly NOT shot but a gun fired up into the air. it was probably fired at an angle.

    Also the odds of hitting someone by firing a gun directly into the air is….remote. Not impossible and so its really a dumb thing to do, but dont blow it out of proportion. Do the math for yourself. If your own back yard is 100 square feet (frigging small backyard) and you fire a bullet up and it comes down with some magical extra force needed to actually be lethal (beyond freak circumstance of landing in the eye of an upturned head or hitting some soft skull area), the odds of it hitting you is about 2%, in my own back yard of 1200 square feet the odds of my bullet dropping on me goes .16%. I wouldnt want to do that, why take the risk, but I sure wouldn’t loose sleep over the possibility.

    Just to be really clear, I thing this is a lame thing to do, your being a moron if you do it, but your being a moron on par with texting while driving or playing tag near railroad tracks.

  15. I was a youngster at a BoyScout camp when someone had the bright idea to fire an arrow nearly straight up into the air. The arrow sailed quite a ways, and returned to the earth with enough force to sink the target tip about 6″ into the soft grass. Thankfully no one was hit and there weren’t many people in the area. The bow used was a wimpy 35 or 40# recurve.

    I concluded the event with the involved party with an animated discussion about physics and stupidity. Birdshot pellets don’t fall with much force, anything else is just a bad idea.

  16. If you’re gonna shoot in the air at least shoot straight up.

    1) The round will expand the energy imparted by the discharge and end up falling at its normal terminal velocity… which isn’t that dangerous

    2) At least you’ll be the one under it

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