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NYE 2013: Celebrate by Raising a Glass, Not a Gun

New Year's Eve brings out an odd Southern tradition: Celebratory gunfire.

At first I thought I was dreaming.

But drip, drip, drip of rainwater hit my forehead with enough regularity to wake me up from my sleep.

So I stared at the ceiling, grumbled, got the bucket and pushed the bed out of the way.

The roofer who came to fix the leak a few days later put a small piece of metal in my hand that he extracted from the roof and explained it was the genesis of what had become a fairly sizable hole.

"What is it," I asked him.

"It's a bullet," he answered with a look that suggested he thought I was some sort of bumpkin for not knowing.

"Well, how did it get up there," I asked.

"New Year's probably. People shoot their guns for New Year's Eve to ring in the new year."

Funny, up until then, I only saw people in the Middle East and the Balkans marking joyous occasions by celebratory gunfire up into the air.

So now on yet another New Year's Eve, I'm steeling myself to the pop-pop-pop sounds that will pierce the night as the world welcomes 2013.

Anyone who remembers basic rules of gravity, knows that what goes up, must come down.

And as the Atlanta Police Department notes, a bullet can travel up to a mile high and then come down.

And that bullet — like the one in my roof — has to land somewhere.

Should it hit someone, it could have the same effect as being shot by a person purposefully aiming at a victim.

By shooting a gun in the air, you could cause property damage, serious injury or the death of another person and not even know it.

"We would like to remind Atlanta’s citizens of the danger involved from shooting firearms into the air," APD Sgt. Gregory Lyon said. "Falling bullets can seriously injure or even kill."

APD is bracing itself for an increase in calls related to shots fired and fireworks that sound like gunfire, Lyons told East Atlanta Patch.

"It is common for callers to confuse the two," he said. "Many times I have been sent to investigate shots fired only to discover it was nothing more than fireworks. It is safe to say, however, that we respond to more “shots fired” calls on New Year’s Eve than almost any other day of the year."

Even so, he advised that people should call 911 anytime they hear anything that sounds like gunfire and that celebratory gunfire is illegal.

"Celebratory gunfire is against the law and discharging a weapon is a misdemeanor offense," Lyons said. "That means you could spend up to a year in jail and face a $1,000 fine."

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