Regulation

Will Amateur Fireworks Go Out With a Bang, or With a Whimper?

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Firefox, the Idaho-based supplier of chemicals and materials to pyrotechnic enthusiasts, has lost its legal battle with the Consumer Products Safety Commission, which is determined to protect firework fans from themselves by preventing them from pursuing their hobby. Firefox and its supporters argue that the CPSC has exceeded its statutory authority by targeting fireworks produced by hobbyists for their own use, which can be legally assembled and set off at sites overseen by federally licensed manufacturers. But on April 30, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill sided with the CPSC, approving the limits it demanded on Firefox's sales, a precedent the company's customers fear will ultimately make their hobby impractical.

Here is Winmill's April 30 decision (PDF), including the injunction sought by the CPSC, which takes effect at the end of June. The Fireworks Foundation's John Steinberg discusses it here, advising hobbyists to "purchase whatever you think you're going to need for the foreseeable future to the extent that you can afford it."

Brian Doherty covered the Firefox case in the May 2005 issue of reason. The Fireworks Foundation, which has been collecting donations for Firefox's legal defense, has background information here. Skylighter, another chemical supplier, bemoaned Judge Winmill's summary judgment for the government in its December 21 newsletter. The Fireworks Alliance, which is "dedicated to keeping fireworks legal and preserving the tradition of fireworks for all Americans," is here. Last year, Robert Stacy McCain celebrated that cause on the eve of Independence Day.

[Thanks to Robert Goodman for the tip.]

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  1. They can have my sparklers when they pry them from my hot, blistered hands.

  2. Danged bibertarians. Honestly, we’re not going to be free of them until we’ve re-engineered man to be invulnerable.

  3. Well, playing with pipe bombs out in the woods it is, then.

  4. The Fireworks Foundation’s John Steinberg discusses it here, advising hobbyists to “purchase whatever you think you’re going to need for the foreseeable future to the extent that you can afford it.”

    Hmmm, a bunch of people buying as much black powder as they can afford at one time. I think I see the law of unintended consequences with this regulation.

  5. ProGLib:

    hier is your man…

    psst – BP – ohnoes! you just reminded me of the senior campers’ favorite game at summer camp…

  6. It’s to be hoped this will have some positive backlash from even the sheeple, since “Independence Day” has long been more about image than substance, which is exactly the same reversal of priorities exhibited in American culture. In the same vein, those who didn’t complain about or even notice the accelerating erosion of their actual rights, may actually sit up and start bleating when their precious privileges, bread and circuses are threatened throughly increasingly onerous “copy protections” (i.e., access blocking) of digital media.

  7. In some ways, this is probably for the best. Now the children will be safe from the second-hand smoke generated by the fireworks. And the noise pollution. Not to mention the ounces of carbon kicked up in the atmosphere.

  8. . . .since “Independence Day” has long been more about image than substance. . . .

    Well, we are still independent from the British, right? I think the Cubans still celebrate independence from the Spanish, too. What’s telling is that we don’t mark Constitution Day with similar fanfare. Or how about Liberty Day?

  9. Alternative sources exist for the chemicals that one would need to make a boom, but what’s threatened here mostly is access by amateurs to those chems which are sold as being particularly suitable due to their purity for making good colored lights. Amateurs can’t come anywhere near the pros in terms of volume of output, but frequently far exceed them in terms of quality of individual items. Certain effects such as strobe rockets are seen only among hobbyists.

  10. This is of no real consequence. REAL ‘Mericuns buy fireworks made in Red China from Red Indians on reservations.

  11. When are you unimportant crackpot Libertarians going to realize that nobody cares about this issue.

  12. URKOBOLD…please email me….!!

  13. They’ll get my fireworks when they pry them from my cold dead 7 fingers! ?

  14. When are you unimportant crackpot Libertarians going to realize that nobody cares about this issue.

    Probably right after the assohole authoritarians realize its none of their fucking business.

  15. Whether the majority of people are too dense to understand why more freedom is better than less freedom has little to do with the rightness or wrongness of the libertarian position.

  16. The Fireworks Foundation’s John Steinberg discusses it here, advising hobbyists to “purchase whatever you think you’re going to need for the foreseeable future to the extent that you can afford it.”

    I see SWAT teams raiding the houses looking for “stockpiles of explosives.”

  17. Has anybody checked for political contributions from folks named Grucci or Bartolotta?

    At least George Plimpton didn’t live to see this.

    Kevin

  18. Apparently America continues to become more and more unfriendly to anyone that has a peculiar hobby. Why won’t normal people just leave us eccentrics alone?


  19. I see SWAT teams raiding the houses looking for “stockpiles of explosives.”

    No joke, I know someone that happened to.

  20. I’ll bet America was one hell of a country back before the nannyists and the tyrannical thugs fucked everything up. Wish I could have seen it back then.

    George, John, Sam, Ben I’m so damned sorry.

  21. Well, we are still independent from the British, right?

    Yeah, but it’s getting to be a Frying Pan–>Fire thing.

    My favorite part of the Fourth is our Community Patriotic Sing. Every year I get volunteered to read the Declaration of Independence.

    Might be a good libertarian thing to glance around your community and see if there’s a venue that will let you do the same.

    “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands…”

  22. This case involves a firm that sells supplies for the manufacture of shells, rockets, etc. But some of the items they sell — mainly fuse — are used by hobbyists to put together their backyard shows. with ordinary consumer fireworks.

    The specifics of the Firefox case are a bit complex, and it is not certain whether the restrictions on Firefox will be applied to other pyro-supply firms.. The big concern is that this case establishes a precedent of federal agencies cracking down on such companies because of alleged violations and — rather than imposing a fine, as would be n\ormal in most other regulatory affairs — instead imposing restrictions on their business that have the effect of putting them out of business.

    I think the concern goes beyond merely the fireworks industry, but admittedly fireworks is a special case because so many people are ignorant of (and prejudiced against) amateur pyrotechics. The judge in this case clearly failed to understand (or else supported) the basic anti-business nature of the CPSC’s demands in the Firefox case. Rather than fining Firefox for its past infractions, and putting them on probation to ensure future compliance, CPSC wanted to impose unprecedented special conditions on the company.

  23. Not only that, but it attempts to convert the Federal Hazardous Substances Labeling Act, which does not purport to create a class of controlled substances, into one that does just that.

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