Bullet Free Sky, a South Hillsborough-based nonprofit organization with a growing, global reach, is making its semi-annual plea to prevent the dangers of celebratory gunfire this New Year’s Eve.
Each year, primarily on July 4 and Dec. 31, there are numerous reports from around the nation and the world of people injured and killed due to celebratory gunfire. Bullets fired into the air do come down, often with lethal force and never with precision. Falling bullets have injured and killed randomly, including a four-year-old boy in Georgia who was killed when a bullet struck him in the head after piercing the roof of the church he was in on Jan. 1, 2010. Last year on New Year’s Day, a 43-year-old man in Houston was killed after a falling bullet struck him in the head.
Diego Duran was more fortunate. The Duran family decided to spend the 2012 New Year’s watching a fireworks display from the perceived safety of their rural Ruskin home. Moments into the new year, the then 12-year-old Diego suddenly collapsed with blood coming from his head. Subsequent x-rays showed a bullet lodged in his head, after traveling nearly the length of his skull. The shooter, who could well have been as many as three miles away, has never stepped forward nor been apprehended.
Diego, while resuming many of the activities of a typical teenager, is still recovering from his near-fatal injury.
Diego’s mother, Sandy Duran, went on to found Bullet Free Sky, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public about the dangers of celebratory gunfire. Although the problem is worldwide, the need is acute right here at home. There is no corner of South Hillsborough that is immune from the dangers of a bullet fired into the air.
The organization is not anti-gun, nor does it take a stance on weapons or weapon ownership. Its entire mission is merely to educate the public about a needless and dangerous practice.
“We are pleased to announce the completion of our new educational video to send a message to the public regarding the dangers of celebratory gunfire,” Sandy Duran wrote in a Bullet Free Sky press release. “[The] great news is that this video will also be presented to Hillsborough County public middle and high school students, thanks to the support of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. School Resource Deputies will be presenting the video to students prior to the holidays.
The organization has also sent emails and letters to state senators and representatives asking them to support legislation enabling appropriate penalties for the act of celebratory gunfire. Currently, despite the documented dangers, in Florida celebratory gunfire, even in a populated area, is merely a second degree misdemeanor.
The organization emphasizes that the legislation being sought is not anti-gun, but merely a protective measure from a dangerous and irresponsible practice. Bullet Free Sky has partnered with Aegis Tactical, Shooters World and other area gun shops and instructors to help spread their message.
Both Arizona and Virginia have recently passed similar laws in response to celebratory gunfire incidents.
“As you know, this irresponsible practice takes place during the New Year and the 4th of July more than any other holidays,” Duran continued. “We cannot rely on others to make a difference when there is a problem that affects us all directly. We need to participate in the solution. Education and awareness are essential. It is everyone’s responsibility if we want to see true results.”
Duran, who is a member of the National Rifle Association, believes a solution will come when both gun owners and those who do not own guns come together to take action in stopping it.
“We are all celebrating under the same sky,” she said. “It is important to protect our loved ones and communities from harm during the holidays, and we cannot do this alone.”
Sandy Duran speaks from hard-earned experience. She experienced the terror of seeing her young son cut down by celebratory gunfire. If it could happen in her peaceful front yard, it could happen anywhere in South Hillsborough.
The public service video may be viewed at www.tinyurl.com/observer-bfs.
A condensed version may be viewed at www.tinyurl.com/observer-bfs2.
For more information about Bullet Free Sky, visit their website at www.bulletfreesky.org.
Full disclosure: Mitch Traphagen is a member of the Bullet Free Sky board of directors.