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Celebratory Gunfire On New Year’s Eve Is, Not Surprisingly, Dangerous

Fireworks are a safer way to celebrate the New Year than firing guns into the sky.

Shooting your gun into the air on New Year's Eve -- or any celebratory gunfire, for that matter -- can have deadly consequences. That might seem obvious, but along with party poppers, fireworks and champagne, it remains a staple at some celebrations.

A 1994 study by researchers from the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science and the University of California, Los Angeles found that the mortality rate for patients hit by spent bullets falling from the sky after celebratory fire was "significantly higher" than other gunshot wound victims.

"For every bullet fired into the air, someone doesn't [always] get hurt, and so it may look as if it's a pretty innocent and celebratory activity," said Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith, dean of the College of Medicine at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles. "But, quite honestly, for those who are hurt, especially the fatalities, it's a tragedy that extends, beyond the individual into the family and the community -- and it certainly destroys a celebration."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also studied this issue by looking at celebratory gunfire injuries during New Year's Eve celebrations in Puerto Rico in 2003, which had a population of almost 4 million people at that time.

The CDC considers the 2004 research "historical" because the data hasn't been updated, but at that time, researchers found that the most common body part injured by celebratory gunfire was the head.

Dr. Prothrow-Stith has one tip for those looking to ring in 2019.

"There are a lot of different ways to celebrate," she said. "Shooting bullets should not be one of them."

Guns & America is a public media reporting project on the role of guns in American life.

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