Police Beg Locals to Refrain From Taking 'Pot Shots' at Chinese Spy Balloon

North Carolina police are urging residents to refrain from aiming their guns into the sky to take "pot shots" at a Chinese spy balloon that may be headed their way.

President Joe Biden faced Republican backlash after deciding, on the advice of military leaders, against shooting down the high-altitude surveillance balloon when it was spotted over Montana earlier this week. A number of the same Republicans have since encouraged citizens to take the matter into their own hands by shooting at the balloon themselves.

Police in Gastonia, about 20 miles from Charlotte, begged locals in a Facebook post on Friday to avoid firing their guns into the air in hopes of shooting down the balloon, which a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration model predicts could be in the area on Saturday morning.

Officials also urged residents to not bother contacting them if they do spot the balloon, explaining that they do not "have the capability" to respond to an object that is believed to be around 60,000 feet in the air.

Police Warn Against Shooting Chinese Spy Balloon
A man is pictured aiming a gun into the air in this undated file photo. The inset features an Israeli-made surveillance balloon. Police in Gastonia, North Carolina, on Friday warned locals against attempting to shoot down the Chinese spy balloon that has been spotted traversing the country this week. wwing; SAM PANTHAKY/AFP

"If the now infamous Chinese 'weather balloon' makes its way over Gastonia, please don't call the police to report it," the Facebook post said. "We don't have the capability to respond to an altitude of 60k feet to check it out. We are pretty sure the Feds would want us to stay out of it."

"And finally, please don't take pot shots at it with your handguns in an attempt to bring it down on your own," it continued.

Newsweek has reached out to the Gastonia Police Department for additional comment.

Experts say it is unlikely that the massive spy balloon could be brought down by a person firing a gun from the ground, even if they did somehow manage to hit it.

Kevin Massie, U.S. Air Force major, wrote in a 2009 research paper that the objects are "difficult to detect and if hit, do not immediately descend." He also noted that puncture holes do not cause the balloons to deflate or go up in flames, instead only causing "slow leaks and slow descents."

Massie's paper pointed out that a 100-meter weather balloon remained aloft for six days after being shot with 1,000 rounds by Canadian F-18 fighter jets in 1998.

In addition to likely having no real impact, aiming a gun into the air and firing at a faraway object like the balloon poses several obvious dangers, including potentially hitting unintended targets or people.

Regardless, Republicans including Donald Trump Jr. and sitting members of Congress continued to promote the idea of a "regular person" shooting at the balloon on Friday.

"If Joe Biden and his administration are too weak to do the obvious and shoot down an enemy surveillance balloon perhaps we just let the good people of Montana do their thing," Trump Jr. tweeted. "I imagine they have the capability and the resolve to do it all themselves."

"Literally every regular person I know is talking about how to shoot down the Chinese Spy Balloon," tweeted Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. "It would be great if an average Joe shot it down because China Joe won't. Regular Americans can do everything better than the government and actually care about our country."

GOP Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona tweeted a picture of himself aiming a gun alongside the comment, "count me in."

Gosar's tweet was in response to a similar message from failed Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who shared a picture of herself pointing a gun in the air. The object has not been spotted anywhere near Arizona.