When the ball drops in New York's Times Square to announce the arrival of 2013, it's a time of celebration.

But revelers in the Southland are being cautioned. Law enforcement agencies will be on patrol looking for people who celebrate the arrival of the new year by shooting guns in the air.

"The law of gravity says what goes up must come down," said San Bernardino police watch commander, Lt. Mike Madden. "And it comes down faster then it goes up."

Los Angeles Chief of Police Charlie Beck said at a news conference on Thursday that a bullet fired in the air falls at a rate of 300 to 700 mph.

That's enough velocity for a bullet to pierce a person's skull.

In San Bernardino County during the 2012 New Year's celebration only two people were arrested for discharging a firearm in the air, said District Attorney spokesman Christopher Lee.

But two is too many, authorities say.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said in a press conference on Thursday that anyone who fires a gun in the air to ring in the new year will face jail time along with a fine of up to $10,000, even if no one is hurt.

It's a felony punishable by up to three years in prison, Lacey said. "Anyone arrested for discharging a firearm will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," she said.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department says patrol deputies will be on the lookout for people shooting off guns as well as drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs, said sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Bachman.

"Every year there are calls from residents in various neighborhood throughout the county on random gunfire," she said. "We encourage people to find different ways to have fun celebrating the new year in a safe and sane manner."

San Bernardino police receive a significant number of calls each year for shots fired and respond to all of them. "We tell our officers to be mindful because they can become targets," Madden said. "But officers will always respond to a crime in progress especially when lives are in danger. That's what we do."


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