Miami Police Chief John Timoney is warning residents and visitors not to shoot their guns in the air tonight. “People welcome in the New Year by idiotically shooting guns into the air, not realizing that those bullets come down at 120 miles per hour,” Timoney said.
The Miami Herald notes that the tradition of shooting into the air to ring in the New Year is common. Most years, someone is injured or killed by the practice. The police department will have extra patrols all over the city tonight; Timoney and Deputy Chief Frank Fernandez will take part.
Around midnight, Miami officers take cover under bridge overpasses or in buildings to protect themselves from falling bullets. Local ministers said that most churches will be holding midnight services. The Rev. Richard Bennett of the African-American Council of Christian Clergy said that, “So many innocent people can be injured by these guns.”
Miami-Dade police officer Emile Wilson recalls New Year’s Eve 1993, when a stray bullet hit him. Wilson, then 26, was working as a security guard at a state office building when at 12:30 a.m., a bullet fell from the sky, hit a floppy disc in his shirt pocket, then struck his side. “I was very, very lucky,” he said.
A similar warning was issued by Chicago Police Superintendent Philip Cline, says the Chicago Tribune. Nearly every New Year’s Eve someone is killed or injured in the city by errant gunfire from celebrations, Cline said. He promised to seek felony charges against anyone caught with a gun: “If you fire your gun on New Year’s Eve, you can expect to spend the holiday in jail.”