Bullets and fireworks

Fireworks set to glow with hearts and stars on a black background
Fireworks set to glow with hearts and stars on a black background

July 4th is the iconic American holiday. I plan to spend it with my family at our cabin enjoying the sun and the water as well as time spent together. We will go to a nearby fireworks display as will millions of Americans. Every year, people are harmed by fireworks of some kind. Last year, several were killed, including this Detroit man. From the article:

It happened following a barbecue on Plainview. A witness says the victim picked up an explosive to set it off when it shot in his direction.

“I tried to notify the media, the legislature, anyone I could that legalizing these powerful professional-grade fireworks is wrong for Michigan,” said retired police sergeant David Malhalab. “There is no price you can put on a life, a hand, a child, an eye, a mother or a father.”

So legislatures also have regulated certain types of fireworks because of their potential to harm citizens. There are known risks, including fires started by fireworks. This report, including numbers for injuries, deaths and fires, shows the dangers of fireworks. In 2014 over 10,000 people were treated for fireworks related injuries and 11 people died. Young children were among the highest age group treated for injuries. Most of these were from misuse or malfunctioning of the fireworks.

So the take away here is that caution should be practiced when using fireworks. Because of dry conditions, the state of Oregon is warning citizens about potential fireworks bans if conditions become worse.

So we know that fireworks can be harmful and hopefully your own family will be safe from any injuries or problems associated with the usual fireworks displays or family celebrations with smaller fireworks.

We also know that guns can be harmful and celebratory gunfire on this holiday has caused “accidental” injuries and deaths. Given that gun owners should understand that bullets that are fired into the air must come down somewhere, it’s really hard to understand why celebratory gunfire still occurs. Warnings are already issued in some places:

The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office will be taking a zero tolerance stance on any and all illegal gun use and gun crime during the holiday.

“There are many ways to safely celebrate with family and friends. Discharging  a firearm is NOT one of them,” said Sheriff Al Nienhuis.  “It’s just too easy for people to get hurt.  Leave the firearms at home, in a safe and secure location.”

Good advice. But it will not be followed by some who feel the need to bring their guns with them wherever they go. From the reports above, the risks of being injured by fireworks are greater than any risk of having to use a gun for self defense in a public place where families gather to enjoy the holiday celebrations.

For example, this Missouri woman was injured when someone at the July 4th celebration she was attending stupidly shot a gun into the air and the bullet that came down lodged in her face:

A stray bullet hit a Missouri woman just under her eye while she was watching fireworks on Independence Day.

The bullet is thought to have come from a rambunctious reveler who shot his gun into the air to honor our freedoms. Spoiler alert: Celebratory gunfire is not one of them.

“I’m sure they were celebrating,” Janet Brewer told the Daily News. “There was no one around us who had guns. It had to come from a distance.”

Brewer, of Fenton, is not against the Second Amendment but thinks irresponsible gun ownership is “way out of hand.”

“We are trying to get out there just how dangerous shooting something in the air can be,” she said. “I’m just lucky to be here. If it were an inch higher, it would have gone through my eye and gone through my head and killed me.”

The second amendment does not guarantee that one can do anything with one’s gun. With rights come responsibilities. Let’s look at more incidents involving stupid and dangerous behavior with guns on July 4th.

An 11 year old Kansas girl died when a bullet fired from over a mile away hit her and killed her during a July 4th celebration. Here is a quote from the girl’s mother:” “A gun is not a toy; it should not be out at any point of celebration, because that’s how my daughter lost her life. A bullet traveled quite a distance and hit her in the neck,” she said.”

A gun is not a toy. It’s a weapon designed to kill and needs to be treated as such. Here’s an article about a 7 year old Virginia child who was killed by July 4th celebratory gun fire and about celebratory gun fire in general. Gun rights advocates and gun violence prevention advocates all agree that people should not shoot guns into the air.

My state of Minnesota has passed some strict regulations about where certain kinds of fireworks can be used and which ones are banned. Some fireworks are not allowed in public places and some are banned for private citizens. So here’s a question? Most fireworks are not allowed in public spaces but loaded guns are. Does this make any sense? I say no. It’s time to think through what public safety actually means. If it’s not safe for fireworks in public, why is it safe to allow people to carry guns in public places? Isn’t it time for this to change?

July 4th should be a holiday for fun and time with families and friends. And it should be a safe time for all. So be careful out there with fireworks and take the advice of the Sheriff from the above article: “Leave the firearms at home in a safe and secure location.”

Happy 4th to all.

3 thoughts on “Bullets and fireworks

  1. J. Edwards says:

    Howdy folks,

    This is one article from you that I have to say bravo. I like that we are promoting good gun safety habits. While my gun does “go with me everywhere I go” I would never think to use it as a celebratory tool. Growing up in a state where shooting off fireworks in your backyard was completely legal, I never felt the need to dangerously launch a a projectile in the air that can kill you. Actually I would consider even pointing a weapon in the air to be bad muzzle discipline. This ties in to why there is no such thing in the LEO or civilian defense world as a “warning shot”. You are legally responsible for every bullet that leaves your gun. You want to make sure that you know what your target is and what is behind it. This is also why every police department in the country uses some form of expanding bullet, (hollow point). These bullets are much less likely to over-penetrate and strike another unintended target.

    I remember back in 1989 a fella in Manchester New York was confronted by two career criminals. The man fired a warning shot into the air that struck a woman on a third story apartment balcony. The bullet entered her heart and killed her. It was a case of someone with a power they did not know how to control and tragedy resulted.

    It amazes me that some people still do not realize that if you shoot a bullet into the air, it will come down somewhere. I was in a local gun shop when two young fellas came in looking for a box 12 gauge slugs. I asked if they were hunting mule deer out of curiosity and they said, “naw we are gonna shoot em up on New Years”. They were actually planning to shoot 70 caliber slugs into the air. When I explained the danger, they exclaimed, “What?? You mean they come back down??” I guess they thought the bullet just went into orbit or something…

  2. J. Edwards says:

    For those that do want to legally and safely discharge their weapons this 4th of July, I would suggest first going out into an area that is safe to shoot firearms. (an are that is not considered a “congested area”) and then use “powder only” loads. Hollywood calls these loads “blanks”. They are essentially a shell casing with a primer and no bullet. Just be warned that using these bullets will foul the barrel of the weapon considerably and could damage the rifling of the barrel is shot repeatedly. For this reason I would recommend using a smooth-bore gun like a shotgun. That way you can be as loud as you want and shoot in the air to your heart’s content safely.

  3. It’s amazing how dumb some folks are. You can’t trust them with a rubber mallet, let alone a firearm. J.’s idea of blank loads is a really good one. Being into muzzle loading, blanks are very doable for me. In a smooth-bore they work great. But, as J. says (even with nitro shells), they do foul much more quickly without a ball or shot column on top. And with black powder it’s worse.
    QUESTIONS for J.: Are blank cartridges readily available for common chamberings? And would they work in a recoil-operated firearm?

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