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Police Warn Against Celebratory Gunfire On New Year's Eve

(CBS Local) -- Police across the country are reminding people that it is illegal and extremely dangerous to fire celebratory gunshots into the air to bring in the new year.

Although rare, people being shot by celebratory gunfire on New Year's Eve and other holidays like the Fourth of July does happen, prompting police and ballistics experts to caution people that bullets fired into the air can have serious consequences.

"What goes up must come down, and the results are tragic when people are hit by celebratory gunfire," officials in Pittsburgh warned Thursday in a statement.

For example, a 9-year-old boy was watching television inside his Cleveland home last New Year's Eve when he was wounded by a stray bullet.

Another 9-year-old boy in Atlanta was shot in the abdomen by celebratory gunfire early Jan. 1 while he and his family set off fireworks.

That same year, a college senior was shot in the abdomen in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, after someone fired a gun into the air to celebrate the new year.

"Our message has always been not to do it because it's dangerous and illegal in our city," Raleigh police Lt. Mario Campos told the Associated Press. "Bullets can travel a long distance. Any gunfire discharged into the air has to come down and land on something."

Even if you fire your gun and no one is hurt, don't be surprised if a police officer shows up at your door. Several American cities, including Miami and Stockton, California, are equipped wth gunfire detection technology that can tell the difference between gunshots and fireworks.

People caught fire celebratory gunshots are subject to arrest, and could be punished with fines and even jail time.

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