Leader calls for halt of celebratory New Year's Eve gunfire

Church leader calls for halt of celebratory New Year's Eve gunfire

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ATLANTA -

Leaders at Atlanta's historic Ebenezer Baptist Church are pleading with the metro area to stop gun violence.

Traditionally, the church has a midnight service to celebrate the ringing in of the New Year. But this year, the service is dedicated to the lives lost in Newtown, Connecticut.   
    
Ebenezer's senior pastor, Dr. Raphael Warnock, has issued an open invitation to families of gun violence victims and gun injury survivors. He's also calling on pastors, leaders and citizens to demand that guns not be fired in the air on this New Year's Eve.

"We're asking that at 12 midnight, when traditionally lots of people begin to shoot into the air, that this is no time to grab your weapon. Really, this is a time to find a quiet space to reflect on the words of Dr. King, who said that we will either learn to live together as brothers and sisters or die together as fools," said Warnock.

The Atlanta Police Department is also pleading with residents to not fire in the air at midnight. According to the APD's Facebook page, celebratory gunfire is illegal. If caught, a person can be charged with a misdemeanor and fined $1,000.

Arthur Huges had a shell crash through the roof of his Riverdale home on New Year's Eve in 2008. No one was hurt, but it left him shell-shocked.

 "Every year you hate to see New Year's Eve come because you know there's going to be a lot of shooting and someone is going to get injured," said Huges.

In 2009, 4-year-old Marquel Peters was sitting in his church in Decatur when a bullet came through the roof and killed him.  The young boy was sitting in a pew next to his mother, Nathalee,

"She's still heartbroken…She is very committed to slowing down this behavior," said Huges.
 
Huges has posted signs throughout the community to remind people to find another way to ring in the New Year.
 
"There are ways to celebrate like an air horn or fireworks but don't shoot a gun," said Huges. "You can injure someone -- and it's against the law."

The service at Ebenezer Baptist Church began at 10 p.m.  At midnight, the organ at the church will chime 40 times, once for each victim of the Newtown, Connecticut massacre and 12 times for the most violent cities in America.

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