WESLACO, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Anyone shooting a gun into the air in celebration may not intend to harm anyone, but those bullets can return to the ground with enough force to cause serious injury or death.
That’s exactly what happened in 2017 when Texas state Rep. Armando Martinez was struck in the head by a stray bullet in Weslaco, needing emergency surgery to save his life.
“An irresponsible gun owner who was firing their weapon up in the air,” Martinez said. “We could hear it in the distance. We didn’t know exactly how far they were but, of course, we would get under the garage or go inside, and but right at the stroke of midnight when all the kids were out, and they were lighting up their fireworks, you know, to have a festive evening that’s when I was struck with a stray bullet right in the head.
“Fortunately, I it didn’t become a tragedy, and it was something that we could learn from and educate the public.”
Texas does not have comprehensive laws around celebratory gunfire.
But after Martinez was shot, he has been working towards implementing a law that would hold accountable those who chose to fire recklessly during celebrations, putting others like himself in danger.
“There is something called reckless discharge, but it doesn’t address exactly what we’re talking about and what we’re trying to get to,” he said. “I myself am a hunter, and I own weapons myself, and this has nothing to do with taking weapons away or infringing on the 2nd Amendment. This is all about safety and making sure that you have the irresponsible gun owner, you know, taken.”
People must be accountable for their actions, he said.
“Any responsible gun owners like myself and others know that we shouldn’t be doing that. So this is mainly targeted towards the irresponsible gun owner that could tragically injure or hurt somebody,” Martinez said.
Celebratory gunfire is illegal in Texas cities with populations of 100,000 or more. It is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $4,000.
Pharr Police Department’s Officer Alfredo Ortiz said it can even cost gun owners’ their firearm.
“You can be fined. That stuff can be confiscated from you. And if it does strike somebody, criminal charges can be added depending on how severe it is,” Ortiz said. “So we always try to caution people to be careful with that. Firearms obviously they’re not a toy, you know, people need to learn to respect them and not just fire because remember, wherever it goes up has to come down.”