Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Virginia State News

March 7, 2014

Bill aimed at celebratory gunshots heads to Va gov

RICHMOND, Va. — A celebratory gunfire bill inspired by the tragic death of a Virginia boy last summer is heading to Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

The practice involves firing a weapon into the sky, often on New Year’s Eve and July Fourth.

The Virginia Senate on Thursday approved the bill called “Brendon’s Law,” named after 7-year-old Brendon Mackey, who died after being struck in the head by a falling bullet at a fireworks show in central Virginia.

Police believe someone fired a shot into the air within a 5,200-foot radius of Brendon. His death sparked a methodical, door-to-door search. No one has been charged with the fatal shooting.

The legislation provides stiffer penalties for those who maim or injure others with stray bullets.  But the bill had been watered down by lawmakers in the GOP-controlled House of Delegates.

The original form of the bill submitted by Richmond-area Democratic Sen. Henry L. Marsh III called for a prison sentence of up to 10 years for death from celebratory gunfire, and up to five years for serious injury resulting from celebratory gunfire.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the bill as passed simply states that reckless handling of a firearm that “causes the serious bodily injury of another person resulting in permanent and significant physical impairment” would be a Class 6 felony, eligible to receive up to five years in prison.

The current law provides a penalty of up to one year and a $2,500 fine, a Class 1 misdemeanor, for recklessly handling a firearm that endangers “life, limb or property.”

Marsh had said that the legislation aimed to make it clear that random, celebratory shooting is a crime and that if anyone is hurt or killed, there should be serious punishment.

“I wish everybody could look into the face of that little boy,” Marsh had said. “He looked like a little angel.”

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