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Celebratory gunfire pierced Texas lawmaker’s skull on New Year’s Eve

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Texas lawmaker Armando “Mando” Martinez was standing outside on New Year’s Eve with his wife and children, watching fireworks light up the sky, as 2016 became 2017.

At midnight, his wife hugged him and gave him a kiss, Martinez told the Monitor, then he felt a piercing pain in his head, as if he had just been hit by a sledgehammer, he said.

Family members found a small hole in the Democrat’s head, and inside that, they found a bullet.

It probably came from celebratory gunfire in the area, the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office told CBS 4, a crime that, if prosecuted, carries jail time and a $4,000 fine. If the stray bullet kills someone, the shooter faces more serious charges.

But Martinez thinks that’s not enough.

In an interview from Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen, Tex., located in the state’s southernmost tip, the veteran lawmaker told the Texas Tribune he plans to propose legislation in the upcoming session that would further address the dangers of celebratory gunfire.

The details, though, remain unclear.

“Something dealing with celebratory gunfire, definitely,” Martinez told the Tribune. “But I need to talk to our sheriff’s department and maybe our [district attorney] and see exactly what type of ideas they have as well, so that way we can get an idea of how we’re going to do it and propose it.”

Martinez was released from the hospital Monday and is recovering.

The lawmaker was first taken to Knapp Medical Center after the shooting, then transferred to Valley Baptist, where surgeons spent 45 minutes removing the bullet from his skull, CBS 4 reported. It did no damage to the lawmaker’s brain, he told the TV station, and he never lost consciousness.

“A couple more millimeters and we wouldn’t be having a conversation today,” Martinez later told the Tribune.

Celebratory gunfire has long been a hazard, not just in Texas, but across the country, especially during holidays.

Leading up to the New Year’s celebrations, police in Dallas told local media they’d been receiving a flurry of 911 calls reporting celebratory gunfire and asked residents to provide as much information as possible if they hear shots ring out. Law enforcement in Houston offered a similar warning.

“When it comes up, it must come down, and we should not play Russian roulette with the lives of our families,” said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo during a news conference last week, reported KHOU reported.

Martinez noted that the area where he was welcoming the new year was filled with the sounds of celebratory gunfire. They had taken cover in a garage until it subsided, he told the Monitor, then ventured back out when they thought it was safe.

It’s a tradition, he told the Tribune, that needs to change.

“Growing up, we grew up around guns. You know, I have a [concealed handgun license]. I’m a hunter,” Martinez told the Tribune. “But everybody knows better than to get a gun and fire it up in the air because what goes up must come down.”

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