From Facebook neighborhood groups to the NextDoor app - which I never look at because people love their drama on there - on pretty much any night in June or July, you can find someone asking the age old question: "Did anyone just hear gun shots?"

Inevitably, a half dozen other concerned citizens say they did and they've called the police, where another half dozen or so people say to relax, they were just fireworks and nothing to worry about. Then of course you get a dozen or so people who usually type something like "following" so they remember to come back for the conclusion later.

So which is it? Did you just hear fireworks or were they actually gun shots? Here's what to listen for to know the difference.

But first, a reminder from authorities: under no circumstances should you ever shoot a firearm into the air for any reason, least of which in celebration. Unless you own a space cannon of some sort, what goes up must come down and it's going to cause a lot of damage, injury or worse when it does. So please don't do it, ever.

Also, as a reminder - and not to be a buzzkill here - most of the big fireworks are illegal in Colorado. If you've ever wondered which, generally rule of thumb is if it explodes or leaves the ground, it's a no-go in the 970. Or 303, or 720 or whatever that new area code is.

Bottle rockets, mortars, cherry bombs, Roman Candles, etc. are all banned for sale and use in Colorado and can net you some hefty fines if you're caught using them. It's not because Colorado hates fun, by the way. Obviously burning things that can fly are dangerous because of our constant dry landscape and how easy it is to start devastating fires.

The fountains and spinning sparkly things that you can set down and leave in the middle of your street are all that are technically allowed for home use in the Centennial State. Leave the big booming, flying stuff to the professionals.

As for how to tell the difference between a gun shot or a firework - for when you inevitably start to hear the booms and pops in your neighborhood - fireworks usually include a slight sizzle noise when they go off and are pretty random in sequence. Gun shots are very crisp sounding, without much "reverb" to them.

Big boom? That's likely a firework - or an explosion of some sort. Crisp, rhythmic "pop, pop, pop?" That could be gunfire and you should report it to the police, not Facebook or the NextDoor app. Those people aren't going to help you, and you're only likely to stir up some kind of political debate, causing you to wonder why you even asked.

Here's a decent video from the Caller-Times in Corpus Christi, TX that gives you a few examples of each and what to listen for. And in the meantime, for people who no doubt will drive over the Wyoming border and pick up some stuff they're not supposed to have down here - something I think everybody, including the police, acknowledges does happen - please, please consider your surroundings before lighting anything off. The fire threat in the state is always very real, even if we've had a bit of rain lately.

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