I was interviewed for a newspaper article today because the writer was looking for similar but safer things to do on New Year’s Eve than fire guns up into the air. She thought my book Backyard Ballistics might be a source of better alternatives.
I must live in a relatively shielded environment because I thought firing guns up the air to celebrate something wasn’t really a common practice outside of, say, Baghdad or Beirut. Turns out I was wrong. There is apparently a long standing tradition among some regarding what the police call “celebratory firing.”
How dangerous is the practice of celebratory firing?
Well, a lot of people think that retired army General JS Hatcher’s book, called Hatcher’s Notebook is probably the most complete treatment of gun facts ever written. Hatcher describes several studies conducted to figure out just how dangerous this practice is. Bottom line of these studies, says he, is that the terminal velocity of your typical bullet coming back down varies a lot but is normally more than 200 feet per second.
And, other writers on the subject (there have been quite a few) say that tests on cadavers show that skin is punctured and underlying organs messed up (my words, not theirs) at bullet velocities that exceed 180 feet per second. And, since falling bullets typically strike people in the head or shoulders, this appears to me to be a very dangerous practice.
In Los Angeles county, many people have been injured and (according to some sources) killed by the practice, so many in fact, that celebratory firing is a felony.