Wood County Sheriff encouraging safe celebrations this New Year

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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - As 2019 comes to a close, plenty of New Year’s celebrations will be taking place across the Mid-Ohio Valley. Many people like to ring in the New Year by firing a gun or shooting off some fireworks, but law enforcement wants to remind everyone to stay safe doing so, and to do so legally.

While Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens doesn’t know of any local incidents, he says plenty of people elsewhere have been struck by stray gunfire. He says a 9 millimeter bullet may travel upward at 1100 feet per second once it’s been fired, and what goes up, must come down. Once a bullet starts to drop, Stephens says it can reach up to 300 feet per second.

Stephens suggests those eager to pop off a few rounds look up the West Virginia state code on when and where it’s considered legal to discharge a firearm.

“If they’re going to shoot off into the woods or something like that, I understand, and a lot of times if they’re in a remote area, that’s probably okay,” said Stephens. “But there’s also a law that says you can’t shoot within 500 feet of a dwelling.”

As for fireworks, Stephens recommends sticking with sparklers and keeping an eye on children. He says most fireworks that are shot into the sky are illegal in West Virginia and most municipalities have additional restrictions. He suggests knowing local laws before lighting anything, and to keep a fire extinguisher nearby.