Bullet the Blue Sky
September 18, 2004 3:46 AM   Subscribe

Isn't shooting a gun in the air in celebration incredibly dangerous when the bullets come back down? Do people get killed this way?
posted by Pretty_Generic to Society & Culture (20 answers total)
Yes. Here's one.
posted by weston at 3:58 AM on September 18, 2004

another, a related google answer. I'm trying to find some info on a Phoenix area girl who was killed while I was living down there a few years ago, and I believe it happened once or twice in Los Angeles while I was living there.
posted by weston at 4:03 AM on September 18, 2004

Not to threadjack, but the history of this is kinda interesting. During the great game, when Middle Easterners were able to defeat British soldiers, they would celebrate by firing the dead British soldier's weapons into the air. Of course, that was back when then guns fired only one round at a time. Unfortunately, the tradition has continued into modern times when guns fire more than one round at a time (machine guns) which has caused an increasing number of problems.
posted by crazy finger at 7:08 AM on September 18, 2004

It's been a problem in Chicago as well (not very frequently, mostly around New Years), and I suspect you'll find the same in most large cities, at least on occasion. I recall, but cannot now find, an instance somewhere out west where the perpetrator (a kid) was tracked down and charged with manslaughter because his rifle bullet had come down a mile or so away and killed another kid.

I also found a brief essay that discusses the american custom of firing weapons into the air, including early laws against it.
posted by aramaic at 7:55 AM on September 18, 2004

It's an idiot thing to do. I've been known to let off a few rounds for effect occasionally (4th of July, etc.) but I fire only at the ground. (Note, doing it carefully this way makes the desired noise but doesn't at all match the wildass, go-crazy-guy celebratory mood of folks whooping and emptying their 30-30s into the air in Kain-tucky (or AKs in Outer Gouloshistan) so I don't expect it to catch on worldwide.)

Incidentally, as a 30-year shooter I have never seen a single person fire into the air, except on TV. But I may have missed something because I've also never seen anybody shoot a road sign--and that happens all the time, judging by the holes.
posted by jfuller at 8:32 AM on September 18, 2004

When I used to live in LA, they used to have posters and PSAs on TV that went up around the new year, warning that "bullets come down and kill." And this wasn't a couple decades ago, it was just a few years ago.
posted by mathowie at 9:05 AM on September 18, 2004

In St. Louis they have a big program around New Years' Eve called "Fun Without Guns" to get people to stop shooting their guns into the air in celebration.
posted by zsazsa at 9:22 AM on September 18, 2004

Response by poster: And for the mathematicians: Does a bullet fired directly upwards hit the ground at more, less or roughly the same speed it was fired? Including air resistance, and assuming you move out the way first :)
posted by Pretty_Generic at 9:28 AM on September 18, 2004

I seem to remember an article on this in the last year but can't find it. It was relating to a member of the KKK who shot a round in the air and it came back down and killed him. It stuck in my mind because it couldn't have happend to a nicer person.
posted by floanna at 10:05 AM on September 18, 2004

From Weston's link:

A typical medium-caliber bullet fired straight up from a handgun leaves the muzzle going about 1,000 feet per second, or about 681 mph.

It goes up until the pull of gravity is stronger than the bullet's lift.

Then it heads back down, starting at 32 feet per second. Each second its speed increases by 32 feet per second until it reaches terminal velocity, the term for a bullet's maximum speed.

For a medium-caliber bullet, terminal velocity will be about 190 to 250 feet per second, or 130 to 170 mph, Kelly said. Such a speed is deadly.

posted by Tubes at 10:06 AM on September 18, 2004

It's a very stupid thing to do. Anybody remember this story?
posted by Tenuki at 11:15 AM on September 18, 2004

Response by poster: Note to self - read things
posted by Pretty_Generic at 11:38 AM on September 18, 2004

Tenuki - that's the story I remember!
posted by floanna at 1:42 PM on September 18, 2004

For a medium-caliber bullet, terminal velocity will be about 190 to 250 feet per second, or 130 to 170 mph, Kelly said. Such a speed is deadly

My favourite illustration of this principle:


posted by filmgoerjuan at 2:39 PM on September 18, 2004

This happens in Kurt Vonnegut's novel Deadeye Dick, an I remember right.
posted by kenko at 3:34 PM on September 18, 2004

I would say rather it's credibly dangerous.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:12 PM on September 18, 2004

This at least used to be a very big problem in Detroit.
posted by Goofyy at 12:00 AM on September 19, 2004

Yeah, but 220fps is significantly less than 1000fps. I've seen it disputed as to how deadly a bullet falling at terminal velocity is likely to be. And it's even less for a small caliber bullet. I think there's some controversy over whether a .22 fired straight in the air is actually that deadly coming back down.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:42 AM on September 19, 2004

Response by poster: The families of the dead people probably disagree with that though...
posted by Pretty_Generic at 12:33 PM on September 19, 2004

This is a central element of The Mexican.
posted by waldo at 3:13 PM on September 19, 2004

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