Bullets in the Air
I visited the ruins of bab al-aziziyya, Gaddafi’s compound, today. Amidst the rubble, shattered glass, and miles of underground tunnels Libyan families by the thousands roam in an out of Gaddafi’s former palaces, drinking tea with almonds, writing graffiti on the walls, and taking pictures of themselves amidst the destroyed kitsh of their former dictator.
Weirdly, Libyan militia units storm into the place as a kind of ‘rite de passage’ where they climb the buildings, shoot celebratory fire into air, and take photos. I could see bab al-aziziyya becoming a kind of Libyan Masada or Gettysburg.
Also when one band of particularly rambunctious rebel soldiers fired into the air, I ran for cover underneath an archway… later they approached me and teased me for being the Arabic equivalent of a ‘scaredy-cat’. I explained that many people have died in Tripoli from bullets that were fired into the air and then fall back to earth with terminal velocity and I don’t want that to happen to me… so please don’t fire into the air all the time when you are happy. They told me I was wrong and that the NTC is propagating a myth about this to preserve ammunition.
Now if you are interested in the truth about the dangers of bullets fired into the air rather than the chatter amongst various Libyans then click here.
The upshot is that bullets fired perfectly straight up don’t kill people, but those at an angle do. Sadly, I have seen celebratory rebels shooting into the air… they tend to hold the gun between 65 and 85 degrees… and rarely do they ever fire at a perfect 90 degree angle. Consider the photo of these kids shooting celebratory fire that I took at bab al-aziziyya: