Don't Ring in 2012 with a Bang!

New Year's Eve plus guns and fireworks can equal a bad - and costly - equation.

If you're thinking about ringing in 2012 by discharging a gun into the air - authorities urge, think again.

Not only will you be breaking the law, but you could unknowingly end up injuring or even killing someone.

According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), it's a violation of the California Penal Code to "recklessly and unlawfully" discharge a gun. In other words - it's a crime, and it can lead to felony charges.

Everyone knows that what goes up, must come down. Bullets fired into the air can travel up to two miles up into the air and come crashing down at a rate of 300 to 700 feet per second. Science says, it will come down just as quickly as it went up - and that's fast enough to kill.

ATF Special Agent in Charge John A. Torres said, "The ATF wants to ensure that all those celebrating New Year's Eve have a great time and enjoy family and friends. We don't want to see the New Year ruined by senseless tragedy just because someone thought it would be 'fun' to shoot a gun in the air."

"Random gunfire on New Year's Eve has gone down significantly in recent years, but even one is too many," he continued.

The Milpitas Police Department and the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office also remind residents on this New Year's Eve that it is illegal to sell, store or set off fireworks without following the proper safety procedures and obtaining the proper permits, as well.

The penalty for such fireworks-related offenses can be steep - and are probably not how you envisioned kicking off the new year.

At the low end, the penalties include a misdemeanor conviction, a fine ranging anywhere from $50-1,000, and/or imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year. 

At the high end, the penalties include a felony conviction, fines up to $50,000, and/or imprisonment in state prison for three years. 

Please consult the Health and Safety Code for specific answers regarding the penalties for particular offenses.

If you witness anyone shooting a gun into the air on New Year's Eve, please call the Milpitas Police Department at 408-586-2400; or, to give information anonymously, call the crime tip hotline at 408-586-2500.

For more information, visit the Milpitas Police Department's website or the ATF website.

And from all of us at Milpitas Patch - have a safe New Year! 


- L.A. Chung and Claudia Cruz contributed to this report.


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