Turkey’s Trabzon seeks to address stray bullets after boy’s death

Guns are an inseparable part of life in Turkey’s Black Sea region, perhaps more so than any other place in the country. In this hub of firearms production, guns are prized by locals as much as celebratory gunfire. One city now seeks to change this image, or at least, to temporarily put a stop to the tradition of firing into the air while celebrating a wedding or any other otherwise happy occasion.

Trabzon is only weeks away from a highly likely victory in Turkey’s prestigious Süper Lig for its Trabzonspor team. The occasion is expected to be a major event for the city of about 816,000 people. Celebratory gunfire, as usual, will be a part of the events, whether on busy streets or secluded highlands far from central Trabzon. In this environment, a family’s campaign slowly gains momentum in the city.

Fifteen-year-old Emir Yuşa Atıcı, a resident of Istanbul, was visiting his grandfather in the city when a stray bullet claimed his life on Aug. 11 last year. Investigators could not find who fired the shot that hit the boy while he was walking in a hazelnut orchard. However, it is believed that a “tired bullet” claimed his life, a name given to free falling bullets that have lost speed and energy while falling to the ground after being fired into the air and sometimes can hit objects or people nearby. Atıcı’s family launched a campaign to end the practice of celebratory gunfire and, thanks to the support of the governorate and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the campaign is more visible now. Posters with signs reading “Don’t Fire On Happiness” adorns the billboards nowadays in Trabzon. “We will do anything to end the celebratory gunfire,” Mustafa Atıcı, the boy’s father, said. “We aim for this campaign to spread across the entire country,” he told Demirören News Agency (DHA) on Wednesday.

Trabzonspor has also repeatedly called on its fans to stop firing into the air while locals hope the practice will end this year. “Trabzonspor is probably the only team in Turkey whose championship title will be marked all across Turkey. It will be a great loss if someone dies or gets injured (because of gunfire). I call on the fellow people of Trabzon to celebrate it with music and dance, not guns,” Bahaettin Kabahasanoğlu, a Trabzonspor fan and native of the city says.

Stray bullets are responsible for a number of deaths every year, although the exact official figures are not available. The latest figures provided by Interior Ministry from 2019 show at least 69 people were killed between 2016 and 2019 in 3,076 cases of “random shootings,” although it is not clear whether this includes fatalities among people caught in the crossfire during shootouts between two or more people.

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