Editorial: End New Year’s Eve gun play in Detroit, elsewhere
Detroit has managed to defeat one of its more dangerous and embarrassing traditions: the torching of buildings on the night before Halloween. Devil’s Night is now Angels’ Night in the city, with barely more fires than on any other day of the year.
But the city still clings to the deadly custom of firing of pistols, rifles and shotguns on New Year’s Eve, and it should put that dangerous tradition to rest as well.
If past practice prevails over good judgment, the sounds of gunfire will ring throughout the city tonight at the stroke of midnight.
What goes up, of course, must come down. And not all of the projectiles fall harmlessly to the ground. They often damage homes and cars, and sometimes they kill.
After Detroiter Sandra Latham was killed by one of those stray bullets while in her home in 1997, the community rallied in a campaign to “Ring in the New Year with a Bell, Not a Bang.”
More recently, the Neighborhood Services Organization’s Youth Initiative Project started a “Hugs, Not Bullets” informational drive to make residents aware of the dangers of firing guns into the air. And yet, still, the practice has persisted.
It’s not just the celebratory shots that present a danger. Since the holiday is so heavily associated with alcohol use, the presence of so many guns at parties and other places for use at midnight increases the risk of minor conflicts flaring into deadly resolutions.
Too often, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are heavy homicide days in Detroit. The first day of 2014, for example, saw eight murders in Detroit, including several at New Year’s Eve parties.
Of course, Detroit isn’t the only city that celebrates New Year’s Eve with firearms. Two years ago, a 10-year-old girl in Delaware was killed by a stray bullet while standing in her yard watching a fireworks display. Other cities have had similar incidents.
Some Detroit gun shops have stopped selling bullets on New Year’s Eve, and that’s a responsible step. Citywide, everything should be done to discourage the bullet fest.
Detroit is trying to enter a new era and make the city more attractive both to existing residents and potential residents. Getting rid of the New Year’s Eve gun play is an important step in that process.
Bang a pot. Light a firecracker. Pucker up and plant one on a willing recipient. But keep the guns locked up tonight, and make this a truly Happy New Year in Detroit.