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Law enforcement warns of celebratory gunfire during July 4 weekend

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Posted at 11:34 AM, Jul 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-02 13:35:19-04

WACO, TX — Ask two different people in law enforcement, what the most busy time of the year for their link of work is. And you'll likely get the same answer.

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Officer Garen Bynum with the Waco Police Department said July 4th and New Year's Eve are among the busiest days of the year for the police department, saying a lot of the calls are fireworks related, but also instances of celebratory shooting.

"They may be fireworks, but you're absolutely right, a lot of it is actual firearms," he explained. "You know, people going outside in their backyard, their front yard, whatever it may be, and literally firing rounds off into the air to celebrate whatever holiday it is. And that's a huge safety concern for us."

"So July 4 is probably one of the busiest, if not the busiest, days of the year for us as a Police Department," said Officer Garen Bynum, of the Waco Police Department said. The vast majority of the calls that we do receive and come in are related to fireworks in some way, form or fashion."

July 4th and New Years Eve are typically the busiest days police officers encounter in regard to fireworks calls, but their also some of the busiest days in regard to celebratory shooting.

"By then with the amount of calls they receive, our dispatch center is just absolutely slam packed," Bynum said. "Our officers are getting slam packed with calls, and we'll have extra officers out and about."

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There's a couple misconceptions surrounding celebratory gunfire, specfically regarding the ability to detect (hear it) and it's threat to public safety. Bullets falling down the ground after being shot in the air, come down with enough velocity to seriously injure or kill people.

There's a couple misconceptions the public has in regard to celebratory shooting, perhaps better explained as firing a weapon in the air in celebration. The first misconception is, celebratory shooting isn't dangerous, which it absolutely is.

A study done by ShotSpotter, showed falling bullets actually, provide a higher probability of fatal wounds than those in a "actual" shooting.

"It's also highly illegal," Officer Bynum said."There's not only city ordinances, their state law against that as well. It is an arrest able offense. And if we do catch you doing it, you will go to jail for it. There's no questions asked."

Bynum, said so far the community of Waco has been lucky in avoiding some of the more horrid impacts of celebratory shooting during this time of year, but it certainly doesn't anyone number to it's concern.

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“There’s no mistaking what a gunshot is," Bynum explains for those who believe the sound of fireworks will mask the sound pof gunshots. "We know what it sounds like and people know what it sounds like. And even with the fireworks, we’re still going to come and we’re going to investigate."

"I know that we've taken damage reports in the past," he said. "I don't know of any that we've had actual injuries occur as a result of that. But I know that we have had property damage around the city as a result of that kind of stuff, which tells me that there is absolutely the chance someone could get hurt."

The second misconception some have in regard to celebratory shooting, is that the sound of fireworks overrides or masks the sounds of gunshots.

“There’s no mistaking what a gunshot is," Bynum said. "We know what it sounds like and people know what it sounds like. And even with the fireworks, we’re still going to come and we’re going to investigate. If there’s fireworks we’ll come and confiscate that and you’ll receive a citation, and if it’s gunfire you'll go to jail."

While Bynum said, he understands the enthusiasm behind people wanting to celebrate this weekend, he hopes all of us do so in a way that puts the community first.

"So here's the biggest thing," Bynum explained. "We want people to enjoy the Fourth of July. We understand that it's a very highly celebrated holiday, and we're not saying not to do that. We're just saying that Let's be safe and Let's think about our community as we do it."

There won't just be an increase in police prescience at local department in cities and towns across Central Texas. But also, on major roadways. Texas has already begun increasing the number of trippers looking out for those who may be drunk, dangerous, or need saving.