Conservative To The Core — Fireworks make sure-fire, hot-button topics for summer

By Tom Seymour | Jun 19, 2014

The old joke about Maine having two seasons, winter and the Fourth of July, has seemed more real than anecdotal as of late. And speaking of Fourth of July, it’s about time that the anti-fireworks crowd makes their annual push to demonize fireworks.

The truth is, fireworks, like guns, are just “things.” And it’s not things that cause harm, but rather, the people who misuse them. People are the problem.

Of the two, guns and fireworks, guns are the most likely to stir feelings and emotions. But consider this. Gun ownership is protected by the constitution and fireworks are not. Why? Because when the various amendments to the constitution were being added, fireworks were just a part of life and nobody even considered regulating them. Well, imported fireworks were subject to tariffs, but that was the extent of regulations.

Over the years, though, states, and later, municipalities, set up their own firework bans and regulations. And that was the beginning of what conservatives would later refer to as the “nanny state.” In other words, in banning fireworks, government was telling citizens that it, government, knew best what was good for them and what was bad for them. And government said that fireworks were bad for the people and that was all there was to it.

Firework restrictions, then, are symptoms of government intrusion. Who in government has the right to say that any one of us (that is, people of a certain age and mentally-competent) isn’t responsible enough to possess fireworks? It comes down to personal choice here and if someone chooses to use fireworks, the conservative thinker must agree that it is his or her choice and none other’s.

Historical ban

Here in Maine, fireworks, with the exception of sparklers and toy caps, have been banned since the early 1940s. The end of the ban came about with the advent of the LePage administration. This means that a large segment of people living now have never legally possessed or ignited fireworks.

I must add that I always thought it strange in years past that sparklers were permitted, but simple, little firecrackers were not. Sparklers are, in fact, far more dangerous. Someone may get a burned hand if they get too near a firecracker, but getting too near a sparkler can set a person on fire. People have died by being ignited by sparklers. I only mention this because it shows the lack of thought on the part of the government. But I digress.

Personally, while I live in a state where fireworks are legal and a town that does not ban them, I don’t really care much about them one way or the other. What I do care about is that government once banned these products and if Democrats have their way, the government will ban them again. It’s just another example of squeaky wheels getting all the grease. And people who want to ban anything are always far more vocal and in the spotlight than people who are ambivalent. The silent majority usually loses.

Intrusive use

Unfortunately, some people unwittingly add fuel to the fire by using fireworks improperly. And by improperly, I don’t mean not observing all safety precautions, but rather, being intrusive with their fireworks use.

While fireworks are legal in Maine, the government has wisely set time limits on when they may be used. Some may consider this government intrusion and it really is. However, this intrusion is, for a change, in support of people’s rights. That is, limiting hours when fireworks may be used protects people’s rights to peace, quiet and tranquility in their own homes.

This seems to me to be little different from barking dog ordinances or loud music ordinances. When people live in close proximity to each other, rules of conduct are necessary. It shouldn’t be so. I mean, if everyone respected other people’s rights, we wouldn’t need such restrictions. But sadly, some people are so self-absorbed in themselves that they give no consideration to the feelings or rights of others.

Permitted hours for using fireworks, by the way, are from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., but from 9 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. on July 4, Dec. 31 and the weekends immediately before and after July 4 and December 31. If you ask me, these are extremely liberal hours.

In fact, while I rarely bother setting off fireworks myself, I have a friend who is fascinated with them. He frequently buys new and different fireworks, but since he lives in a municipality that bans them, he must find someplace other than his own to set them off. So he comes out to my place.

As a rule, especially on a clear night, I much prefer setting up my telescope and viewing galaxies, star clusters and double stars. Fireworks rarely come to mind on these nights. But I defer to my friend and when he drops by, I sit back and watch while he indulges himself.

I live in the country and many years ago, had no close neighbors. But over the years, more and more people have moved here — part of the migration from suburbia to rural areas. I would prefer to have no near neighbors but since they are here, and don’t appear to be going away any time soon, I must observe certain rules of decorum. And that includes my friend’s fireworks.

I put a time limit on his fireworks displays that is a full hour before the legal time expires. He must finish by 9 p.m. and no later. This is a common courtesy. Because you see, as mentioned at the beginning of this column, it’s not things that cause problems. It’s people who cause problems.

It is easy to envision places where fireworks use, while legal, would be totally inappropriate. For instance, setting off loud rockets, the kind that echo off the far hills, near someone’s herd of dairy cows is a bad idea. Likewise, knowing that a veteran, who having served in combat, may suffer anguish from loud noises such as fireworks, means igniting fireworks near that person is just plain wrong. We shouldn’t need a law to tell us that.

For all of the negatives that I just mentioned, we must in the end, return to the basic premise of individual liberties. I, you, we all have the right to our personal freedoms. The less government interference the better. Even if I had an intense dislike for fireworks, I would lobby for the right to possess them. And this, of course, presumes that using fireworks won’t infringe upon someone else’s rights. Common sense and respect for others is necessary.

With Independence Day fast approaching, we’ll hear a litany of naysayers on the electronic media, particularly radio. It’s become predictable, in fact. And it gets old and in fact, has grown old.

It would be nice if the nanny-state people would lay off and let law-abiding citizens enjoy their Fourth of July celebrations in peace. And it would also be nice if individuals would put respect for others first and act accordingly. Can that happen? We can hope.

In the end, communities, not state or federal governments, should have sole responsibility for regulating fireworks.

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