Philadelphia law enforcement officials are reminding residents that New Year’s Eve is for Champagne and noisemakers, and not guns.
Back on New Year’s Eve 1998, community activist Ruth Birchett captured the sound of revelers firing weapons into the air outside her North Philadelphia home.”My goal was to illustrate to city officials what a tremendous hazard this was to our lives in the community. It was very apparent that many homeowners were shooting that gun as well,” she said. “And those otherwise honest citizens really need to get the message that if a bullet comes out of a gun, it’s going to land somewhere and it could be tragic.”While bullets flew outside Birchett’s home, Gregory Jaskolka’s 11-year-old son, Joe, was hit by gunfire in South Philadelphia.”My son, he’s in a wheelchair. That could be you or one of your relatives. Doesn’t have to be,” said Jaskolka.Jaskolka and Birchett joined District Attorney Seth Williams to warn citizens about the hazards of this dangerous Philadelphia tradition. Williams urged New Year’s revelers not to participate in celebratory gunfire.
“We have a zero tolerance for people shooting guns into the air to celebrate the New Year. It’s a stupid act that can have tragic and deadly consequences. There is nothing festive about it,” he said.Williams said anyone caught shooting a firearm could be charged with recklessly endangering another person, and serve several years in prison. If a bullet should hit someone, Williams said the shooter could be charged with aggravated assault, attempted murder or even murder.
There were 117 reports of gunfire last New Year’s Eve.