Explosive Controversy


I was depressed by yesterday's Cato Institute press release about "health and safety groups…calling for a ban on consumer fireworks use"--not because fireworks are so vitally important but because they are completely unnecessary and demonstrably dangerous. Their continued legal availability in 43 states is strong evidence that fun still counts for something in this country.

So I was heartened to read that the same coalition of busybodies has been calling for a national ban on fireworks since 1910. Since then, we have seen bans on a long list of psychoactive substances (including alcohol, for a while), along with many other nonessential, risky, but undeniably fun products. (Lawn darts and machine guns spring to mind.) Yet the prohibitionists have not managed to prevent (most of) us from lighting up sparklers, fountains, and bottle rockets. No doubt the patriotic glow that surrounds fireworks helps. Still, it's another small freedom to celebrate on Sunday. I'll leave it to you to think of an appropriate way to do so.

NEXT: Cassini Division

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  1. Fireworks are banned, of course, in the People's
    Republic of Montgomery County Maryland, land of
    the public health Stalinists.

    The government here even has a law that if you
    have a second (or higher) floor apartment with
    wood floors, you must put down a rug. Does the
    government really need to handle this?

    Sigh. It is a strange and alien culture here
    inside the beltway.


  2. Who still uses bottle rockets? I've got two weeks' pay earmarked for buying the shells that you launch out of miniature mortar tubes. When one of those babies fails to clear the launch pad...that's how I spell EXCITEMENT.

  3. "They can pry my bottle rockets from my cold, dead hands!"

    That would be pretty easy since your fingers are blown off 🙂

  4. That blew up good!

  5. That blowed up REAL good!

  6. Jeff Smith:
    "The government here even has a law that if you
    have a second (or higher) floor apartment with
    wood floors, you must put down a rug. "

    Dude, why?

  7. Jacob should come to the good ol Commonwealth of VA. Bottle Rockets? The only way I can get bottle rockets, or any airborne fireworks for that matter, is to pull the ol' wink-wink-nudge-nudge on the pawn shop owner in my hometown. Otherwise, well, the almighty nanny state has deemed us unworthy of the freedom to possess such evil things. Oh, but we can still celebrate the fourth with, um, the ground-fountains. whee.

  8. "Dude, why?"

    I'll make a wild guess. Perhaps it's because people clopping around on wooden floors would bother the folks who live below them. A carpet would make it much quieter.

    It is much better to have laws then to expect people to fix problems themselves (complain to the property owners and/or move out).

  9. What is risky about machine guns?

    Andy, as a fellow San Diegan, what we need is more fires started by fireworks, or whatever, and allowed to burn. It has been the effectiveness at preventing fires that allowed the dangerous fire situation to arise. To verify this you only have to look to Mexico where they don't bother to fight wild fires, and where they don't have the huge confligurations we have on our side of the border. Much of Northern Baja has the same sort of plant life we have, so it is a very good comparison. I've spent quite a bit of time prospecting in the region between Tecate and the small town of Ojos Negros, and frankly the "government do nothing" approach to firefighting of the Mexicans works. If only they protected private property and allowed meaningful legal private ownership of firearms down there . . . They do allow fireworks in Mexico, of course, and in my local San Diego neighborhood they have been going off a lot lately . . .

  10. Don: Stop thinking rationally. They hate it when you do that 🙂

    I was dealing with the more immediate problem, not the long term, ingrained general problem that the various agencies/governments/busybodies have with private property, etc.

  11. Ruthless,
    Living in the middle of Detroit, I feel your pain. Strangely, though, it actually took me almost two years to have the "fireworks? gunshots?" experience. NOW I can tell them apart. It's just that, believe it or not, the gunshots are actually rarer.

  12. Evan,
    Want airborne fountain fireworks? Invest in a slingshot. It's dangerous as all heck, but cool to watch. For maximum safety, this is best done over a relatively large (read: not swimming pool) body of water.

  13. What is risky about machine guns?

    Hell, what's nonessential about machine guns?

  14. I was at a soccer game a few years ago and someone shot a bottlerocket accross the field and just over the visiting teams bench. It hit some lady behind the teams bench in the leg. She just shrugged it off. It didn't seem to affect her at all. Are fireworks really that dangerous? Have there been that many accidents? Shouldn't people be responsable for there actions? Where are my pants?

  15. This is like christmas trees and grills being illegal in apartement buildings here in old VA.

  16. The difference between 1910 and now is Tetnus. Before kids got tetnus shots you had a lot of children dying tetnus caused by the big ass fire crackers common back then. Caused by dirt propelled into the wound by the explosion. I read somwhere that thousands of children died in the US every year from fireworks induced tetnus.

    Modern firecrackers contain very little flash powder (50mg) and so _won't_ blow off fingers or cause serious wounds. The result is that the number of fireworks deaths in the US is less than 100 per year. Which is far far less than deaths due to other accidents from say bicycles, skate boards, swimming pools, etc.

    You think thats risky? I'll show you something risky! since 1909

  17. Yo, Jacob, don't ever call my machine guns nonessential. They're more necessary than you realize.

  18. "It is much better to have laws then to expect people to fix problems themselves"

    No way! Laws (force) preclude innovation, choice, and cooperation.

  19. Gibbon,
    I might or might not feel more threatened if you ran "tetnus" through your spell-checker.

    and linguist,

    I can't decide if it's good or bad to live in "the eye of the storm" as we do. Comfort me.

    To the woild at large, and/or "The Woild Tomorrow" by Garner Ted Armstrong,"
    Growing up a redneck, if I didn't have a gross blood-blister from a firecracker mishap on more than one finger at Christmas-time, I was a wus.

  20. Ricky,
    Bottle rockets are designed for the express purpose of being aimed into the eye of whomever.

    Go ahead! Make your day!

  21. They can pry my bottle rockets from my cold, dead hands!

  22. If that same coalition eventually has their way we'll all be required someday to wear helmets 24/7....

    As usual it seems to come down to parenting and common sense. I grew up with an arsenal of both fireworks and firearms in the house and I'm still here to talk about it. I think it's because my parents were pretty great about instilling in me and my siblings the serious danger that exists with using those things. One obvious but really effective way that it was instilled was simply by me watching how my parents handled them.

  23. We have the most patriotic neighbors here in the inner city of Cinci. After the sun goes down, our windows are rattling with increasing frequency.
    It didn't take long living here before learning to differentiate between firecrackers and gunfire.
    And a Happy Fourth to youse.

  24. I gotta use Harlston's line next time I see the invevitable story about a kid blowing his fingers off with firecrackers.

  25. Lawn Darts are illegal? I used to play with them all the time when I was a kid. Till that one day......

  26. I always like to celebrate my nation's birth by blowing up a small piece of it.

    In 2002, a friend of mine was working in Finland, and couldn't get home for the 4th, so a couple of us used that as an excuse to go crash in Europe for a couple of weeks. His friends in Turku thought (given that this was less than a year after 9-11) that we should be able to have a traditional American celebration, so they went to the city council and the fire marshal to get permits for us to set off fireworks for the 4th. They didn't want us to do it in town though (sensibly), so we had to do it in the national park outside of town. Practical upshot, 4 drunk Americans and 4 drunk Fins celebrating our nation's birth by blowing up a small part of a Finnish National Park.

    I did not fail to note the regulatory hurdles that had to be overcome, but I appreciated the gesture. Especially on the part of the Finns who actually did the hoop-jumping for us.

  27. Unfortunately, this ban is needed out here in super-dry, fire-prone San Diego county (and Riverside & San Bernadino). The last thing we need is some knucklehead "celebrating" the 4th of July by starting another 250,000 acre fire.

    The last massive one here in SD back in October was set off by a doofus who thought shooting a flare into the ground was a good way to attract attention when he was lost. It worked, for him

    And for those of you who think he should be held responsible, I agree, he should. But there's no way in 500 years that he'll have enough $$ to pay for the firefighting, and loss of life/property.

  28. Fireworks have been a part of our country's history dating back to Independence Day in 1776, when John Adams penned a letter to his wife Abigail saying:

    "I am apt to believe that this day will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations,"

    Happy Independence Day! Celebrate liberty and limit government so that we have more to celebrate a year from now.

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