DETROIT (WJBK) - For the 20th year in a row, Detroit leaders are calling on gun owners to keep their weapon holstered on New Year's Eve.
Many of those pops one hears in Detroit that evening too often aren't coming from champagne bottles. If you think it doesn't matter where your bullet lands, pastors and police say you should. Firing a gun into the air could cost you five years behind bars.
"We hope that this year you will ring in the new year with a bell, and not a bang," said Rev. Nicholas Hood III of United Church of God in Christ.
Hood knows firsthand how much damage can be done by guns fired into the air.
"We replaced our roof four years ago and it was full of bullet holes," he said.
Rev. Hood launched the "Ring in the New Year with a bell, not a bang" campaign two decades ago after a 47-year-old grandmother was killed by a stray bullet.
"She never heard the bullet, never saw it, but she was just seated at her dining room table with her family around her," Hood said.
Retired Detroit Police Chief Ike McKinnon says the problem goes back to his days as a patrolman.
"About five minutes to twelve on New Year's Eve night we would go into the precinct because of all the shooting. think about that: the police were afraid that they would get shot," McKinnon said.
Police are offering free gun locks to encourage people to keep their weapons safe year round but McKinnon says a change in attitude is one of the best ways to bring about change.
"We need this entire community to say enough is enough," he said.
Rev. Hood says he believes no one has been killed by a stray celebratory bullet since his campaign began back in 1997. And Rev. Georgia Hill says that trend must continue for our city to thrive.
"When we shoot guns indiscriminately, we actually kill our own future, the future of our own city," Hill said. "Houses that were empty could have been filled. Ideas could have been had. Dreams could have been fulfilled. Scientific discoveries could have been made by all the people who were shot and killed indiscriminately.