COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)–For the third year in a row, billboard messages have gone up around Columbus urging residents to “Stop Celebratory Gunfire.” They are part of a public awareness campaign in response to the hundreds of rounds of ammunition fired from guns around the city each year on New Year’s Eve.
The billboards feature pictures of local pastors who are spreading the message through their churches.
Rev. Frederick Lamar at Family Missionary Baptist Church says the gunfire is a problem in the neighborhoods around the church on the east side. “We are in one of the prime spots where people do play with guns,” Lamar said. “They don’t think about it’s going to come down, they just think ‘OK, I’m celebrating’.”
Lamar says Family Missionary Baptist Church holds a Watch Night Service on New Year’s Eve when they remember the night of December 31, 1862. On that night, slaves watched and waited for the Emancipation Proclamation to take effect at midnight. Lamar says the gunfire heard that night was slave owners who vowed to kill their slaves rather than set them free.
Local Baptist pastors were meeting Monday in Columbus to discuss goals for the year ahead and plans for New Year’s Eve.
Lamar says the pastors hope to get people to think beyond the moment and to consider the consequences of celebratory gunfire. He’s urging those inclined to fire a weapon to consider a moment of silence and reflection instead. “It’s our Watch Night service and we don’t want our members to come out of service and go out and have bullets coming down,” Lamar said.
According to the Columbus Police website, researchers say a common bullet fired up will come down at about 300 feet per second – more than enough to penetrate a rooftop, a car windshield or the human body.
Jasmine Coleman Sammur was hit by a bullet fired in celebration during the city’s July Fourth fireworks event in 2009. The bullet lodged in her chest. When Sammur talked to NBC 4 last year, she said she gets scared and tries to hide whenever she hears gunfire. “I want people to realize it’s stupid to do for one thing,” Sammur said. “What goes up is going to come down and you never know where it’s going to land.”
Rev. Lamar says that’s the central message they want to send to those who might consider shooting a gun on New Year’s Eve. “A lot of them are not critical thinkers,” Lamar said. “So were going to help them think beyond the moment.”
The Columbus Police Dept. is planning a press conference for Wednesday to highlight the danger that celebratory gunfire poses to police, fire and EMS as well as to the general public.