RIVERDALE — Arthur Hughes is working on a campaign to rid residents in Clayton County as well as the nation of New Year’s Eve celebratory gunfire.
Hughes, 58, said too many people have lost their lives to celebratory gunfire. “New Year’s Eve have fun don’t shoot a gun” campaign began in 2008 after Hughes said he had a “close call” with a stray bullet.
“A stray bullet came through my house on New Year’s Eve around midnight,” he said. “I called the Clayton County Sheriff office and they said that there was nothing that they could do.”
The Riverdale resident said things got worse the following year, in 2009, when a 4-year-old boy was killed by a stray bullet during a New Year’s Eve watchnight service.
Hughes said Marquel Peters was at Church of God of Prophecy in Decatur, sitting next to his mother, Natalie Peters, when the toddler was killed by a stray bullet.
Police told the mother that the bullet probably came from celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve, according to Hughes.
Hughes said he met with then Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner and Riverdale Police Chief Samuel Patterson and they held a press conference to tell people about Marquel Peters’ death and the consequences of celebratory gunfire. However, he said a Gwinnett County man, Sergio Martinez, was shot and killed the following New Year’s Eve 2010, in his home .
Hughes said he is continuing to urge people to refrain from shooting at midnight to mark the coming of the new year.
“Every year, Boy Scout troop 963 stands on Highway 85 in Riverdale and holds up our signs ‘New Years Eve have fun, don’t shoot a gun,’ ” he said. “This year, we want the entire nation to honor the people killed in Newtown, Conn., by not celebrating the new year with gunfire.
“Stray bullets from celebratory gunfire could go anywhere, you don’t know where it is going to land.”
Hughes said they want to get a “New Year’s Eve have fun, don’t shoot a gun” billboard. They want to place billboards in Clayton, Gwinnett, and DeKalb counties because he said those counties are where there have been reported deaths from celebratory gunfire.
He said he has the backing of VFW Post 3650 in Fayetteville.
“They have given funds in the past for yard signs,” he added. “I placed some of them on street corners in Clayton and DeKalb county. Clayton County Christian Association is also supporting our campaign.”