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Sheriff Warns New Year's Eve Celebrants: No Gunfire, Fireworks

bacaLos Angeles County Sheriff's deputies will be out in force to track down and arrest anyone who fires a gun into the air or sets off illegal fireworks while celebrating New Year's Eve.

At a news conference this morning, Sheriff Lee Baca (pictured), country District Attorney Steve Cooley and city of Los Angeles officials announced they have launched a campaign to reduce gunfire throughout the county.

They emphasized that ringing in the New Year with gunfire would not be tolerated, and anyone arrested for illegally discharging a firearm would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. It's a felony punishable by up to a year in state prison.

The news conference included a demonstration of a new device, dubbed the "Shotspotter," a technological tool that assists deputies in the field who are searching for people who fire guns. The device is set up in the Century Station area and can pinpoint gunfire within a few feet of where shots were fired.


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The local campaign is part of a statewide effort to discourage celebratory gunfire.

"It's Newton's basic law of gravity — 'what goes up must come down,' and if it is a bullet, it could easily kill an innocent person," said Stephen C. Herkins, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' San Francisco Field Division. "Too often we hear about it in the news the next day that someone's child, parent, spouse or friend was tragically killed by someone who irresponsibly and illegally chose to shoot a gun into the air."

It is a violation of the California Penal Code to recklessly and unlawfully discharge a firearm, and if the person is legally prohibited from possessing a firearm, it is also a federal violation. The maximum sentence for the federal crime is 10 years in prison. ATF is the agency charged with the jurisdiction to remove guns from people who possess them illegally.

Fireworks that have not met safety standards can be fatal if used by an individual, said John A. Torres, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' Los Angeles Division. Federally banned fireworks include M-80s, M-100s, silver salutes and cherry bombs.

"ATF will work closely with state and local law enforcement to guarantee the public's safety and prosecute individuals in possession of illegal fireworks or practice illegal celebratory gunfire," Torres said.

State and local authorities urge citizens to contact local deputies or police if anyone sees anyone shooting a gun into the air or setting off illegal fireworks. In the Santa Clarita Valley, call the SCV Sheriff's Station at 661-255-1121.

If you wish to provide a tip but remain anonymous, call L.A. Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477, text the letters TIPLA plus your tip to CRIMES (274637) or log on to http://lacrimestoppers.org.

Outside the SCV, contact the state ATF at 800-283-4867 or www.atf.gov.