December 31, 2012- The beginning of the New Year is often celebrated with champagne, fireworks and confetti, and unfortunately in some communities those festivities may also include gunfire. In the wake of the tragedy in Newtown Connecticut just a few weeks ago, District Attorney Seth Williams and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey believe it is extremely important this year to again warn people about the dangers of irresponsible gun use. The District Attorney, Commissioner and shooting victim Joe Jaskolka want to remind people that firing guns into the air on New Year’s Eve is not only dangerous, it is illegal.
“There is zero tolerance for people shooting firearms into the air to ‘celebrate’ the holiday,” said District Attorney Seth Williams, “It’s a stupid act that can have deadly consequences, and there is nothing festive about it. I hope everyone in the city will leave all guns at home under lock and key this year in honor of those senseless 26 deaths in Connecticut. ”
On December 31, 1998, Joe Jaskolka was struck in the head by a so-called ‘celebratory’ bullet while walking along Fernon Street near Second Street in South Philadelphia. Joe was only 11 years old at the time; the bullet is still lodged in his head and his assailant has never been caught. As a result of that bullet, Joe is paralyzed on the right side of his body and face, and he can’t use the left-side of vocal chords. He is now 25 years old and has undergone 33 surgeries to his brain and 21 surgeries to his eyes. The Jaskolka family estimates that insurers have paid more than $15 (m) million dollars to cover the cost of all of his surgeries, and even after all of those procedures Joe still suffers from double vision and the shaking of his eyes every time he speaks. Joe and his father Gregory Jaskolka join the District Attorney’s Office and the Police Department every year to show the life changing damage that can happen when guns are fired into the air on New Years Eve.
“This is very simple,” said Joe Jaskolka, “what goes up most come down.”
“We went from having an annual New Year’s Eve party to having an annual press conference,” Gregory Jaskolka said.
“This was an idiotic and senseless act, firing a gun into the air and not thinking about where it’s going to land,” adds District Attorney Williams. “We want people to have a good time, but we don’t want them to be idiots while doing that.”
“Please, enjoy yourself responsibly, “said Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. “Ring in the New Year in a good way, but don’t put somebody else’s life in jeopardy because you will go to jail.”
Anyone caught shooting a firearm into the air could be charged with Recklessly Endangering Another Person (REAP), which could result in several years in prison if you are convicted. If a bullet hits someone the shooter could be charged with Aggravated Assault, Attempted Murder or even Murder.
Philadelphia police received 154 reports of gunshots fired between 10 p.m. on December 31, 2011 and 3 a.m. on January 1, 2012. On an average night the police might receive a maximum of 10 reports of gunshots fired. The number of legal guns purchased across the country has increased dramatically in just the last few months. According to the FBI, the number of guns purchased in November of this year topped the previous one month record which was set in November of 2011. In November 2012 alone, there were 2,006,919 inquiries by gun dealers to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System also known as NICS. Almost half a million checks were done the last six days before Christmas in 2011. Altogether 16,808,538 NICS searches were done from the beginning of January until the end of November 2012. That is up from 14,592624 in 2011, which is an increase of 15% overall from 2011.