In Arizona’s cities and towns, celebratory gunfire or discharging a weapon without an intended target into the air is against the law. Unfortunately, this practice continues to be fairly common, especially around holidays like the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve. While some believe that when firing a gun into the air, the bullet will continue in its upward trajectory, this is not the case. Once a stray bullet reaches its highest point, it will begin to fall, and due to its aerodynamic design can pick up speed creating a lethal impact. A stray bullet can create a dangerous situation, especially in crowded cities and residential areas. In these areas, the probability that a fatal strike to a person or property damage may occur is higher.
On a Monday night in June 1999, Shannon Smith was in the backyard of her Central Phoenix home talking to her friend on the phone when she was struck in the head by a stray bullet fired a half-mile away. At 14 years old, having just completed eighth grade, Shannon’s death had a profound impact on her community.
In the years that followed, her parents Otis and Lory Smith worked tirelessly with community organizations, local law enforcement, prosecutors, and politicians from across the valley to make a change and deter others from firing a gun into the air. At the time, negligently discharging a weapon was a misdemeanor in Arizona. In 2000, Shannon’s Law (A.R.S 13-3107) was passed by the Arizona Legislature, making it a felony to negligently fire a gun into the air within the limits of any municipality in Arizona.
This Fourth of July, keep others in mind, help avoid tragedy, and enjoy the holiday safely without celebratory gunfire. Help raise awareness and talk to your family, friends, and neighbors about the dangers of firing a gun into the air. To learn more about Shannon’s Law visit, AZLEG.gov/ars/13/03107.htm