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Cotton: Celebrate Safely
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The Fourth of July is one of my favorite times of the year.

It is a time to celebrate the declaring of our independence from England and to remember all of those people who have preserved that independence ever since. This year like so many past we are able to celebrate our freedoms because of the brave men and women serving in the Middle East and around the world protecting our right to live in this great country. Remember these soldiers and their families this holiday weekend, and if you are fortunate enough to see a current or former military person, please pass along your heartfelt thanks; they deserve it.

Another group of people who make sure that you are safe everyday is your local police, fire, and 911 personnel. They are here working hard every day to be responsive to your immediate safety needs. On July 3rd there will be an Independence Day celebration on the Covington Square with music, food, and of course fireworks. There will be a number of public safety personnel from both the city of Covington and Newton County on hand to make sure your experience is both a fun one and a safe one. When you see one of these officers this weekend, remember they are working to make sure you and your families are safe and able to enjoy the event. Please take a moment to thank them as you would our military heroes as they serve as your first line of defense against those people who would do you harm here at home. I would personally like to thank all of men and women who serve in public safety in this county for the tireless and honorable job they do.

When you are planning your long weekend of activities, please keep safety in mind.

First, remember to be safe driving and pay attention to the roads as many people will be traveling. Also remember that drinking and driving don't mix.

Water safety is also a concern. Many will head to the lake or local pools for a day or two of swimming and cooking out. Taking precautions to be safe around the water can make for an enjoyable weekend that doesn't end in tragedy.

Most people think of July 4 as a time for grilling out and fireworks. I hope the crowd will be large for the fireworks celebration on Sunday night. With that said, I know it won't be enough for some people.

Personal use of fireworks is very tempting, and I know the state of Georgia made certain fireworks legal. If you purchase fireworks from one of the many tents popping up around town, remember to use extreme caution. Parents, supervise your children and watch how they are using these seemingly innocent items. Also remember that it is extremely dry right now and you want to take care not to ignite a brush fire.

Finally, I need to give a serious warning to all citizens. Some people think that discharging a handgun, shotgun, or rifle into the air is the same as fireworks.
It is not!

Celebrating in this manner is reckless and irresponsible. Shooting a gun into the air could cause serious injury to someone or even death. During this past New Year's celebrations we had reported two incidents in Covington where bullets from rifles came through the roofs of houses and into the living areas. Remember what goes up must come down.

Fortunately, no one was injured. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

There have been numerous reports in news of this type of tragedy. On Jan. 1, 2010, a 4-year-old boy, Marquel Peters, was killed while attending a New Years Eve Church service in Atlanta. While he sat on the church pew playing his Nintendo game, a bullet came through the roof, striking him in the head. Marquel was killed by a bullet fired from an estimated two miles away.

Shooting a weapon is dangerous and illegal. In Covington, it is unlawful to discharge a firearm. Violators will be prosecuted. If you see someone shooting, please dial 911. Give accurate information as to the location, description of the shooter, and what type of weapon. You don't have to give your name if you don't want to, but remember the best and most accurate information is how the police department is able to stop dangerous and illegal activity.

As we go about celebrating our freedoms and thanking those who protect us, let us remember that safety is everybody's responsibility. If someone had remembered that on Jan. 1, 2010, Marquel would still be alive. Please be safe!