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Sparklers, yes; fireworks, no
Police will enforce laws; celebratory gunfire also discouraged
New Year

If you plan to celebrate New Year's Eve by setting off fireworks, you might want to reconsider. True fireworks are illegal in Georgia.

Using them could result in a fine or, worse, the misdemeanor could land you in jail.

"If it goes up into the air and explodes, it is prohibited," said Advanced Patrol Officer Justin Samples, the spokesman for the Statesboro Police Department.

"The rule of thumb in Georgia is, legal ‘fireworks' don't actually go up in the air and explode," Bulloch County sheriff's Chief Deputy Jared Akins said.

Deputies and officers from these agencies and others will respond to complaint calls tonight, and offenders caught with the real deal could get a warning, a citation with a fine of $725 or even get arrested.

The crime is a misdemeanor, but if the offense is severe enough, an offender might have to come up with bail money.

Sparklers and related items emit sparks and may make a small, on-the-ground explosion, but won't fly into the air and explode with a shower of colors.

"What you can buy locally won't be illegal, but if you go out of state to buy fireworks, they are most likely illegal," Akins said.

Even bottle rockets are prohibited, Samples said. And while the warnings are valid, the threat of consequences doesn't always deter people from taking the risk in the name of celebration and tradition.

"People do it every year," he said. "We respond when we get calls - and most often we confiscate the fireworks."
Some people feel that firing handguns and other firearms into the air is a safe alternative, but experts warn against this tradition, too.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Atlanta Field Division Special Agent in Charge Christopher Shaefer reminded citizens that firing guns into the air isn't safe and might be illegal.

The "ATF wants you to know that celebratory gunfire is not only unsafe; it may be against the law," he said. "Discharging a firearm into the air may lead to charges under Georgia state law or federal charges if that person is prohibited from possessing a firearm.

"ATF will continue to support state and local law enforcement agencies by conducting ballistics testing on shell casings recovered if celebratory random shooting is suspected," Shaefer continued. "ATF will also aggressively pursue any federal charges applicable to help deter these irresponsible and dangerous incidents."

A bullet fired into the air must come down, and often the falling projectile can pose a threat.

"ATF wants you to know that you can enjoy the festivities without placing the public in danger," Schaefer said. "We don't want to see the new year ruined by a senseless tragedy as a result of someone shooting a gun in the air."

If residents observe anyone criminally misusing a firearm, they are urged to contact their local police department immediately, or call ATF at (800) ATF-GUNS (283-4867).

Anyone with questions about fireworks and legal alternatives may call the Statesboro police at (912) 764-9911 or Bulloch County Sheriff's Office at (912) 764-8888.

Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.


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