What police can do to reduce July 4th celebratory gunfire

Data collected and distributed by SST/ShotSpotter suggests that the July 4th holiday weekend is the busiest time of the year for dangerous celebratory gunfire in the United States


For some, fireworks just aren’t enough on Independence Day — firing guns into the air is the celebration of choice. Sadly, just about every year that absurd behavior accounts for several individuals being struck by those bullets as they sail back to earth (what goes up inevitably also comes down). 

According to data collected and distributed by SST/ShotSpotter — manufacturers of systems for gunfire detection, location, alerting, and analysis — those hit by falling bullets have a higher probability of the wound being fatal than a typical shooting. 

“For those struck by falling bullets, the death rate was close to one third,” ShotSpotter said in an announcement this week. “The reason is simple — those unlucky enough to be hit by falling shells are more likely to be struck on the head.” 

For some, fireworks just aren’t enough on Independence Day — firing guns into the air is the celebration of choice. Sadly, just about every year that absurd behavior accounts for several individuals being struck by those bullets as they sail back to earth.
For some, fireworks just aren’t enough on Independence Day — firing guns into the air is the celebration of choice. Sadly, just about every year that absurd behavior accounts for several individuals being struck by those bullets as they sail back to earth. (AP Image)

A Very Real Problem
In 2014, the Hillsborough County (Fla.) Sheriff's Office said on its website that a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that 80 percent of celebratory gunfire-related injuries are to the head, feet, and shoulders. 

What’s worse, according to a 2012 study by researchers at University of California at Davis, almost a third of celebratory gunfire incident victims are children. Kids have been struck and killed by celebratory gunfire in places like Kansas City (Mo.) and Chesterfield (Va.) during July 4th holidays in just the past couple of years.

ShotSpotter data suggests that the July 4th holiday weekend is the busiest time of the year for dangerous celebratory gunfire in the United States — approximately 15 percent of all gunfire incidents take place around New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and the Fourth of July, with about two-thirds of that total occurring around the 4th of July. 

So, what can be done about it? 

Some Suggested Tactics
SST/ShotSpotter CEO Ralph Clark said, “We want to help law enforcement and local communities prevent celebratory gunfire by sharing proven strategies that have been used effectively in many cities across the U.S., and can be easily implemented in any city.”

Clark and his team suggest several ideas for police to take into consideration in the days running up to Independence Day weekend. 

•    Announce your plans to deal with celebratory gunfire (there’s a link to media advisory template for your use below)
•    Utilize your social media to communicate the risks and dangers of celebratory gunfire (some people truly don’t know the risks, as strange as that may seem to police)
•    Consider holding a community engagement event in one of your high-volume gunfire areas (you know where they are) to show that you are committed to reducing gunfire activity there
•    Distribute notices of your proactive policing plans regarding celebratory gunfire and/or knocking on doors, engaging the community

The folks at ShotSpotter have also gone the extra mile to help agencies communicate this danger to local media, providing a template for a media advisory on the subject 

What have you done in your community to successfully reduce this threat? Share your strategies and suggestions in the comments area below. 

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