HOUSTON - The Fourth of July is a great time to celebrate, but law enforcement officers are warning about the dangers of celebratory gunfire.
Officials want everyone to know that it's not only dangerous -- it's also illegal.
Crime Stoppers and City Council Member and Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Gonzalez urged residents Monday not to participate in celebratory gunfire.
"It's illegal. Unlawfully discharging a firearm is a class-A misdemeanor carrying a penalty of up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine."
In the case of bodily injury, the person responsible could be charged with a third-degree felony known as deadly conduct, which is punishable to a $10,000 fine, and two to 10 years in prison.
"Our main message today is, 'What goes up must come down,'" said Katherine Cabaniss, the executive director of Crime Stoppers. "The mortality rate for persons struck by falling bullets is 32 percent, as compared to regular gunshot wounds with a mortality rate between 2 and 6 percent," said Cabaniss.
"As we celebrate our nation's independence, we have to stay vigilant in the safety of our families, friends and neighbors," said Gonzalez. "The bullet may fall in a field, in the street or someplace that may cause minimal danger, but it could hit somebody -- a mother, daughter, father or son," said Gonzalez.
Tragedy struck a Houston-area family in 1996. A father decided to celebrate by firing his gun and one of the bullets accidentally killed his 7-year-old daughter.
"Those bullets are falling fast enough to cause serious damage, not just to property but also to a person," Cabaniss said.
Using fireworks within Houston's city limits is also prohibited.
"It's a very steep penalty and you can go to jail as well for that. Someone could get hurt by using fireworks," said Gonzalez.
Anyone with information about celebratory gunfire offenders is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS or call 911 when the gunfire is occurring.
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