guns holidays

When Did Guns Become Celebratory Firecrackers?

When did guns become celebratory firecrackers during the holidays? Forget “for a friend,” I’m asking for me! Sadly, this has garnered the name, “celebratory gunfire,” but statistics prove that it can cause injuries, and sometimes, death.


guns holidays
Photo: Tsvetoslav Hristov on Unsplash


As a kid, I can recall heading to the cul-de-sac with my parents on our street in Alta Loma, California to be shown how to handle simple firecrackers, like sparklers. Then, my dad would light the Snakes, which began as small, black pill-like pellets, but puffed and elongated into slim snakes slithering on the ground.

Okay, those were just weird because they really look more like dead branches that have fallen from a tree. But as a kid, it was the coolest thing ever, and creeped me out at the same time!


Considering that I’ve witnessed my dad actually chop the heads off live snakes with his shovel, and burn them in a can is quite ironic here.

The big, white house he and my mother made a home on a hill back then boasted an amazing orchard in the back, where coyotes and various snakes infiltrated often. To watch my dad chop a snake’s head off and then burn its body in pieces ceremoniously as the entire house stood around watching was both scary and strangely awesome at the same time.

I still think he is the bravest dad ever! 

Now, 40 years later, we are far past snake fireworks and sparklers in the community. No matter the holiday, whether it’s Memorial Day, New Year’s, or July 4th at minimum, early mornings and evenings are filled with what seems to be shotguns and handhelds smoking in the community. Not just lighting up snake fireworks.

It matters not what side of town I’m on, so to think this is just a Black or “hood” thing would be presumptuous.

What matters is that the bullets from these rounds shot haphazardly into the air eventually land somewhere – or in someone.

Following a 2003 CDC study done around New Year’s in Puerto Rico, in just a 2-day span, 43 people were injured by gunfire, with 65% of those injuries caused by celebratory gunfire, which is classified by the International Classification of Diseases as “unintentional firearm injury.”

celebratory gunfire injuries 2003
Photo: U.S. Center for Disease Control
celebratory noncelebratory gunfire injury
Photo: U.S. Center for Disease Control


Just this past New Year’s, a Durham, NC woman was killed by celebratory gunfire. This follows a similar gunfire death the city experienced in 2020 when a 74-year-old grandmother didn’t make it home on July 4th to see her family.

Prior to these cases, in 2013, 7-year-old Brendon Mackey was shot in the head and killed by what was believed to be celebratory gunfire while walking to enjoy an Independence-Day fireworks display at a public park in Virginia.

celebratory gunfire kids
Photo: Yong Chuan Tan on Unsplash


Two years before that, in Kansas City, Missouri, 11-year-old Blair Shanahan-Lane collapsed in her Uncle’s yard on July 4th after being struck in the neck by a stray bullet shot from a pistol as a group of men celebrated blocks away. The owner of the gun received three years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.

I hope we’re tired of it. I expect we all will go out and get sparklers, and snakes and poppers, instead.