Why Are Fireworks More Regulated Than Guns?

Fourth of July fireworks display

Firearms are easy to get in most places, but try buying fireworks for the Fourth of July. Four states even ban them outright. Image from Santa Rosa Red White and Boom.

It’s that time of year again, everyone grab a sparkler! Hang on there, New York… not so fast. Though Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to legalize sparklers outside of the City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pushing him not to do it. Even though it will remain illegal in the Big Apple, Cuomo is expected to sign a bill passed by the New York legislature last month which would allow the fireworks to be sold in the rest of the state. Bloomberg thinks that the sparklers, which many people feel are pretty safe – safe enough to give to kids – could be an open invitation to terrorists. Speaking through his legislative director, Joseph Garba, here is Bloomberg’s rationale:

“A recent attempt to harm innocent lives provides a frightening example of how legally purchased… fireworks can cause dramatic harm and even kill. [Faisal] Shahzad purchased fireworks at a Pennsylvania chain store, transported the fireworks to Connecticut and created a bomb-like device that he transported into New York City with the intent of killing and causing havoc in a busy tourist area.”

Mr. Garba is referring to the incident in 2010 in which Mr. Shazhad attempted to ignite a bomb in Times Square with an M-88 that he had purchased in another state. But sparklers were illegal in New York when that happened so Bloomberg’s thinking on this is confusing. This new bill would make both sparklers and caps (those ribbons of powder that kids often jump on) legal for sale in New York state from June 1 – July 5 and again from Dec. 26 – Jan. 2 (for New Year’s celebrations).

It occurred to me that if Mr. Shazhad had gone to Times Square with a gun and a bag of ammo, he would likely have done so legally. At least, if he purchased the weapon outside of NYC. And I ask myself, “Why the hell are fireworks more strictly regulated than guns?” Yes, I know the 2nd Amendment by heart – ALL of it. I will maintain my belief that the “well-regulated” part of it is being ignored by the gun lobby and repeat something I am often told by those on the right: “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, then you don’t need to worry.” That’s how I feel about background checks. I went through one to get a concealed weapon permit and it didn’t bother me in the least. But, ya know, we have more regulations for fireworks than we do for guns and that does bother me.

Pretty much the only regulations we have on firearms is that to buy one, you must be 1) an American citizen, 2) not have been convicted of a felony (though in some states this makes no difference at all) and 3) not be crazy (we see how well that one gets followed). Some states require a permit to carry (like Washington, where I have mine) and a very few require registration with law enforcement. Some states limit the kinds of weapons and ammo one can purchase legally (Connecticut for obvious reasons). But other states make it easy to shoot someone, with open carry and “Stand Your Ground” laws (lookin’ at you, Florida and Texas). But, as we well know, these laws are not always observed. That does not, however, mean that we should not have them in place. That “argument” – that criminals won’t obey laws anyway so why make them – is the stupidest I have ever heard put forward by gun nuts.

Fireworks laws are much more stringent, with 4 states banning consumer fireworks outright: Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and – unless Cuomo signs that bill – New York. Four other states allow only sparklers and “novelty items”: Illinois, Iowa, Ohio and Vermont. The rest allow consumer fireworks by federal regulations but each county within the state has its own laws. In my county, only ground fireworks (aka “safe and sane”) are allowed. But we have Indian reservations which sell the aerial displays… as long as you stay on their property to light them off. That people take them home and do it anyway is to be expected. However, this doesn’t mean that the regulations are useless. If someone should fire off an aerial display and it starts a fire, they will be liable for any damage and criminal charges will be filed. If someone should be injured or killed due to their flaunting of the regulations, they will be held legally and civilly responsible. These are all a good deal stricter and hold people more responsible than do gun laws. Just sayin’.

Because I love fireworks and we here at Addicting Info love our readers, I’m going to lay these safety tips on you. Please be careful while enjoying your celebrations.

  •     Know your fireworks; Read the warning labels and performance descriptions before igniting.
  •     Have a designated shooter to organize and shoot your family show.
  •     Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Save your alcohol for after the show.
  •     Parents and caretakers should always closely supervise teens if they are using fireworks.
  •     Parents should not allow young children to handle or use fireworks.
  •     Fireworks should only be used outdoors.
  •     Always have water ready if you are shooting fireworks.
  •     Obey local laws. If fireworks are not legal where you live, do not use them.
  •     Wear safety glasses whenever using fireworks.
  •     Never relight a “dud” firework.  Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
  •     Soak spent fireworks with water before placing them in an outdoor garbage can.
  •     Never attempt to alter or modify consumer fireworks and use them only in the manner in which they were intended.
  •     Report illegal explosives, like M-80s and quarter sticks, to the fire or police department.

And let me add this: please make sure your pets are safely inside for the night. Many animals are terrified of fireworks. We had a dog who would cower in fright every 4th of July, poor thing. If you are in a rural area, please be aware of horses, cattle and other livestock who may also be frightened by the noise and light. Try to be courteous if they belong to your neighbors (I hate driving scared ‘pacas back to the barn).

Have a great holiday and be safe!