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Law enforcement warns against celebratory gunfire for New Year's Eve

CONYERS — Area law enforcement agencies are reminding residents to ring in the New Year safely — and leave the guns at home.

Celebratory gunfire is not only unsafe, it’s also illegal to shoot a firearm within the Conyers city limits, according to Police Chief Gene Wilson. It’s the Wile E. Coyote philosophy, Wilson explained: When you shoot something into the air, eventually it comes down. What people don’t realize is that bullets come down at the same velocity as they went up in the air, he said.

“If you have to make noise to ring in the New Year, get fireworks and leave the guns alone; it’s just not safe,” Wilson said.

The CPD also cautioned drivers that officers will be out on New Year’s Eve and will bring charges against citizens who fire weapons.

Covington Police Capt. Ken Malcom said it is extremely dangerous to fire a weapon at any time and citizens should opt for another means of celebrating the New Year.

“We urge people to use common sense,” he said. “We’ve all heard stories about bullets being shot from a long distance and striking someone, causing serious injury or death.”

Malcom said it is illegal to discharge a firearm in the Covington city limits unless granted a limited permit for specific reasons.

“Again, it’s just common sense,” he said. “What goes up must come down.”

Rockdale County Sheriff Eric Levett also weighed in against celebratory gunfire, calling it unsafe and illegal.

"Discharging firearms in an unsafe manner can cause serious bodily harm or death," he said.

If celebrating with fireworks is part of your New Year’s Eve tradition, state Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens has some words of advice.

Hudgens is urging parents to protect children and themselves by taking precautions when purchasing and handling fireworks.

According to the Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner’s Office, the sale and individual use of any type of firework, except certain kinds of sparklers, is illegal in Georgia. State law defines legal fireworks as those that include: “Wire or wood sparklers of 100 grams or less of mixture per item; other sparkling items which are non-explosive and nonaerial and contain 75 grams or less of chemical compound per tube or a total of 200 grams or less for multiple tubes; snake and glow worms; trick noise makers which include paper streamers, party poppers, string poppers, snappers, and drop pops each consisting of 0.25 grains or less of explosive mixture.”

Hudgens said sparklers are legal in Georgia, but should be used properly and with adult supervision.

“In 2011, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated approximately 9,200 people for fireworks-related injuries,” Hudgens said. “The risk of fireworks injury was highest for children ages 5-19.”

Hudgens cautioned against touching unexploded fireworks and advised that the local fire department should be contacted to handle them.

“It’s traditional to celebrate the coming of the New Year with fireworks,” Hudgens said. “I urge our citizens to enjoy them safely by watching a professional display as they mark the arrival of 2014.”

For those who will be drinking a toast to the new year, Levett advised them to plan ahead and have a designated driver.

"The Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office will have extra patrols for the holiday looking for drivers driving under the influence," Levett said. "I encourage everyone who will be drinking to make sure they have a designated driver. I want everyone to enjoy their New Year’s celebration but also to be safe."