Lawmakers have reckless gunfire in their cross hairs.
There is no shortage of explosive noises at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. Some shoot off fireworks, others take to the streets to bang pots and pans and some Texans shoot celebratory gunshots into the air.
Celebratory gunfire is the act of shooting into the air at the stroke of midnight. In Texas, if someone is caught recklessly firing their gun inside the corporate city limits of a town of over 100,000 people, they could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor – a fine of up to $4,000 and a jail sentence of up to a year.
On Dec. 31, 2016, Texas State Rep. Armando Martinez (D-Weslaco) almost lost his life to celebratory gunfire. That evening, he remembered feeling a little under the weather but decided to go out into the Texas countryside to fire off some fireworks for his wife, kids and their friends. As midnight approached, the kids set up the fireworks in anticipation of 2017.
The new year rang in, his kids lit the fireworks, and Martinez gave his wife a New Year’s kiss. When he broke away from his wife, he recalled warning his kids not to get too close to the flames. That is when he felt a sharp pain in the back of his head.
“I put my head down and, I said, ‘I got hit,’” Martinez recalled. “Initially, I thought it was a firework, but it just hurt so bad… I said, ‘I need to go to the ER’,” he continued.
Martinez had a CAT scan, and the doctor determined there was a bullet so deep they needed to have a neurosurgeon remove it. Martinez eventually recovered and continued his work as a lawmaker.
In Texas, it is illegal to carry a firearm while intoxicated in public, but “on private properties, there are no restrictions on firing any kind of firearm while under the influence.
Texas Rep. Martinez filed a bill in 2017 to charge anyone who shoots a celebratory gunshot with a Class A misdemeanor or a first-degree felony if the bullet causes serious harm. The bill was unsuccessful. Martinez said he is drafting another bill related to celebratory gunfire that he will file before the next session, he said.
“We can strengthen a law to make sure that people are aware that if they’re caught doing this, there is going to be consequences, and we need to hold them accountable for that,” he said.
Local Texas leaders are reminding citizens of the dangers and penalties for reckless celebratory gunfire. “It’s like you’re in a war zone throughout the City of Houston,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said about celebratory gunfire. “It is illegal, it is illegal, it is illegal.”
As we make plans to ring in the new year, remember to discharge weapons safely outside city limits and away from innocent bystanders.