Without doubt, war correspondents are wise to wear helmets and flak jackets while sending dispatches from shell-pounded streets crackling with gunfire. Katherine Cabaniss with Crime Stoppers says errant celebratory gunfire can be just as harmful in a city.
"The wind can carry it a great distance. As it falls, it can cause property damage, or risk to human life. This is the kind of crime and the kind of conduct that is 100% preventable."
Houston City Councilmember Brenda Stardig recalls one apartment resident, who told her she would leave when gunfire erupted on New Year's Eve.
"My concern was: what about the families that were left behind when the gunfire was going off? That is what started my involvement in anti-celebratory gunfire. If you just feel like it. 'Well it sounded like gunfire. I'm not sure.' Report it anyway. Because that's how the police will be able to track down, because of the reports — the calls for service."
Houston Police Assistant Chief Don McKinney
Houston Police Assistant Chief Don McKinney says celebratory gunfire in an urban area is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail and a $4,000 fine, with more serious charges if it is proven that death resulted from the gunfire:
"That would be at the very least, involuntary manslaughter, which would make it a third degree felony. Clearly, celebratory gunfire is very dangerous to the general public. If a round goes up into the air when it returns to the air, it has enough velocity to cause damage to vehicles, to buildings, and certainly enough to seriously injure, or possibly kill individuals."
Last year, the HPD ran 588 calls related to celebratory gunfire. Chief McKinney says that's not a very good use of the department's time and manpower.