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Celebratory gunfire

June 29, 2012

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PEOPLE resort to firing in the air to express joy over the marriage of relatives, to welcome the New Year or in political gatherings. But most of them do not know what happens when they fire in the air.

Firearms expert studied falling bullets and found that .30 calibre rounds reach a terminal velocity of 300 feet per second and larger .50 calibre bullets have a terminal velocity of 500 feet per second. A bullet travelling at only 150 feet per second to 170 feet per second can penetrate human skin, and at 200 feet per second it can penetrate the skull. A bullet that does not penetrate the skull may still result in an intracranial injury which is fatal injury.

Stray bullets mostly hit the skull or the shoulder and consequently celebratory gunfire claims thousands of lives.

Many states in the US took different measures to prevent celebratory gunfire such as in California, discharging a firearm into the air is a felony punishable by three years in state prison. If the stray bullet kills someone, the shooter can be charged with murder. In Ohio, discharging a firearm or a deadly weapon in a public place is classified as disorderly conduct, a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. In Texas, random gunfire is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. Anyone who injures or kills someone with a stray bullet could face more serious felony charges.

In Pakistan, only section 144 is imposed to prevent aerial firing at the time of New Year celebrations and an FIR is lodged against ‘unknown persons’ if someone expires but most cases of aerial firing go unreported.

Even SHOs do not bother to investigate why aerial firing is going on in their jurisdiction and who are responsible for it. If such kind of criminal negligence occurs in any police jurisdiction, then the SHO should be made responsible for it.

I appeal to the Inspector-General Sindh to take stern action against such merrymakers who break homes with their aerial firing. Besides, action must be taken against the police officials concerned.

HASSAN LATIF SHAIKH Visiting faculty member Department of Criminology University of Sindh Hyderabad