How dangerous is firing a gun into the air?

This is a discussion on How dangerous is firing a gun into the air? within the Basic Gun Handling & Safety forums, part of the General Firearm Discussion category; BBC News - Who, What, Why: How dangerous is firing a gun into the air? Libyan rebels have celebrated their advance into Tripoli by firing ...

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Thread: How dangerous is firing a gun into the air?

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    Member Array SigHawk's Avatar
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    How dangerous is firing a gun into the air?

    BBC News - Who, What, Why: How dangerous is firing a gun into the air?

    Libyan rebels have celebrated their advance into Tripoli by firing guns in the air. How hazardous is this?

    It is, unarguably, an emphatic way to display one's jubilation.

    Shooting an automatic weapon into the sky to signal an occasion one welcomes is a popular practice in much of the world, as the footage of Libyan anti-Gaddafi forces seizing the main square of the capital city has demonstrated.

    But it is a potentially fatal activity, which regularly results in the deaths of bystanders.

    "These bullets go a long way up when they're fired," says ballistics expert David Dyson. "But you don't know where they're going to land - there's always a chance of them causing serious harm or death."

    Examples of fatalities due to celebratory gunfire abound.

    Three people in the Philippines died due to stray bullets fired to welcome the arrival of the new year 2011.

    In 2010 a Turkish bridegroom killed three relatives when he fired an AK-47 at his own wedding. In the same year, Jordan's King Abdullah II ordered his country's authorities to clamp down on the practice after two people were killed and 13 more injured in one incident.

    When the Iraqi football team defeated Vietnam in 2007's Asia Cup, three people were killed in Baghdad amid widespread gunshots as fans celebrated. Celebratory gunfire in Kuwait after the end of the Gulf War in 1991 was blamed for 20 deaths.

    The practice is not restricted to Asia and the Middle East. A US study found that 118 people were treated for random "falling-bullet injuries" at one Los Angeles medical centre between 1985 and 1992, resulting in the deaths of 38.

    Additionally, the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia also ran a poster campaign with the slogan "Bullets Are Not Greeting Cards - Celebrate Without Weapons". In 2005, Serbian authorities warned their citizens that "every bullet that is fired up must come down" ahead of New Year's Eve.

    Studies suggest that, although the velocity of a falling bullet is lower than that of one which has just been fired, it is still sufficient to be fatal.

    According to a 1962 study, .30 calibre rounds can reach terminal velocities of 300 feet (91m) per second as they fall. More recent research has indicated that 200 feet (61m) per second is enough to penetrate the skull.

    As a result, a number of US states including California, Texas, Arizona and Ohio outlaw firing a gun into the air. In Minnesota, it is specifically forbidden in cemeteries.

    Prof Peter Squires, an expert in gun crime and gun culture at the University of Brighton, says it is possible that the practice stems from cultural assumptions linking weapons with masculinity and ego.

    But, additionally, he suggests that the common practice of firing 21-gun salutes or deploying firing parties at military funerals - albeit equipped with blanks - may have been somehow appropriated.

    "There's an association with fireworks," he says. "Firing a gun is an effective way or making a loud bang. It's tied up with a state of carnivalesque abandon.

    "But obviously what goes up must come down again."
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    In the 1940s Gen Julian Hatcher conducted test using the 30/06 and found that when fired at an upward angle of 30 degrees the rounds would travel more than 5 miles and impact with sufficient velocity to be lethal.
    When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk.
    "Don't forget, incoming fire has the right of way."

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    Senior Member Array ICTsnub's Avatar
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    Mythbusters has been all over this. If you can truly fire straight up, it is near to harmless, but any angle creates a ballistic trajectory that is harmful.
    I'm not a lawyer or a LEO, just a pantload with a computer.

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    If you could fire a weapon perfectly straight up with no wind the bullet may fall back to earth and not have enough velocity to kill but I still would not want to catch that bullet with any part of my body. In my neck of the woods we worry about guns fired into the air during New Years and other various special occasions, I could be wrong but I think it is mostly people from south of America, but we also have some people around here whose necks are extraordinarily red.
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    I feel morally responsible to know the resting place of every bullet I fire. As far as celebratory fire in the ME, if that's their cultural thing, it's a self correcting problem.
    joker1 and hienykins like this.
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    A 1000 ways to die. Lol! what goes up must come down.


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    How dangerous is firing into the air? Let me ask this differently. Do you think you would NOT go to jail if you fired into the air and the falling ball hit someone inflicting harm or death?

    Instead of relying on a mythbuster program, use good sense and care.
    mkh likes this.
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    Senior Member Array SFury's Avatar
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    Well, doing so, at any angle, means you don't know what's beyond your target. A violation of one of the basic gun safety rules.

    It's not something I would do. It's also something I would, if safe to, try and stop other people from doing as well.

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    Senior Member Array ICTsnub's Avatar
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    Actually Mythbusters proved how nearly impossible it is to fire straight up, but if you could, the falling bullet is traveling at terminal velocity, which is basically harmless. Oddly, the show is one of the most responsible, and unbiased on TV that shows guns being used.



    Quote Originally Posted by Hopyard View Post
    How dangerous is firing into the air? Let me ask this differently. Do you think you would NOT go to jail if you fired into the air and the falling ball hit someone inflicting harm or death?

    Instead of relying on a mythbuster program, use good sense and care.
    dcselby1 likes this.
    I'm not a lawyer or a LEO, just a pantload with a computer.

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    Back during the 2001 New Year, I was in Peurto Rico on a Mission trip. There was an apartment complex right behind the church that we were staying at. There were people in the parking lot celebrating and shooting AK-47's and hand guns into the air. Amazed no one got hurt or killed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ICTsnub View Post
    Actually Mythbusters proved how nearly impossible it is to fire straight up, but if you could, the falling bullet is traveling at terminal velocity, which is basically harmless. Oddly, the show is one of the most responsible, and unbiased on TV that shows guns being used.
    Well, I really question if terminal velocity is harmless. A bullet traveling at ca. 120 mph does not sound harmless to me. I sure wouldn't want it to land on my head.
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    Distinguished Member Array razor02097's Avatar
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    Mythbusters said a bullet falling to the earth at it's terminal velocity isn't lethal.... They didn't say harmless.
    There is something about firing 4,200 thirty millimeter rounds/min that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

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    Senior Member Array MotorCityGun's Avatar
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    Every vid currently coming out of Libya shows (mob) citizenry shooting their AK's into the air...yikes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ICTsnub View Post
    Actually Mythbusters proved how nearly impossible it is to fire straight up, but if you could, the falling bullet is traveling at terminal velocity, which is basically harmless. Oddly, the show is one of the most responsible, and unbiased on TV that shows guns being used.
    But they don't use real science, they use theater veiled as science, and they've got more than one thing dead wrong, and left many flat unanswered. Unbiased and responsible sure but I do not take their presentations as scientific fact by any stretch of the imagination.

    If I'm going to have celebratory fire it's going to be how many shots I can put into how small of a section on a piece of paper, clouds close back up and make it hard to see the holes.

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    There are annual reminders to people in several cities to NOT fire guns in the air to celebrate New Year's

    Over the years, I've done a report or two about people actually hit by falling projectiles. Many years ago, some bonehead fired a rifle out in rural Pierce County, WA and put the bullet through four walls of my grandfather's house, with the last stop in the kitchen, right where he would have been sitting had it been dinner time. We never could figure out just where that bullet came from, but it had to travel a heckuva long way to get to where it landed!

    Everything that goes up MUST come down, and bullets come down with often nasty consequences. Perhaps Libyans haven't figured this out just yet.

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