Monday, June 11, 2007


Sending fireworks to someone else's back yard

As Independence Day nears, we note that many people will be buying fireworks, many kids will be using them, and, as always, many of those kids (and adults as well) will be seriously burned or will lose fingers, eyes, and sometimes even lives, because of fireworks explosions.

Families in New Jersey, among other states, can't buy fireworks — the sale of fireworks to consumers is illegal in New Jersey. But many of them will drive across the river to Pennsylvania and buy them there to bring home. But here's the interesting thing: it's not that Pennsylvania doesn't think that the use of fireworks by untrained and inadequately protected people is dangerous. Because, in fact, Pennsylvania also makes it illegal to sell fireworks to its own residents. It's just that they're happy to sell them to out-of-state consumers.

Now, as it happens, the New Jersey law makes it illegal not just to sell fireworks in the state, but to transport, possess, or use then as well. So those New Jerseyans who are popping to PA for their purchases are still breaking the law, and the police will be watching for that too. But that's not the point.

The point is that it's unethical to ban the sale of them in your state on safety grounds, but to go ahead and sell them to other states, without regard to the safety of the people across the border. And it's clear where the market is, when you look, for instance, at the locations of the major fireworks shops in PA: three near New Jersey, one near Maryland, one near Ohio and New York.

New Jersey is asking Pennsylvania to change their law. Not surprisingly, there's some resistance to the idea. For example, from an Associated Press article:

Nick Troutman, a former aide to Sen. Roger A. Madigan, who sponsored Pennsylvania's fireworks law, said sales to out-of-state residents are allowed to help protect Pennsylvania fireworks companies.

“If the law was changed, these companies that have invested million of dollars in their fireworks factories would be going out of business,” he said.

Troutman said Pennsylvania's not to blame for others coming there to buy fireworks.

“That's not Pennsylvania's responsibility,” he said.

What an irresponsible, bloodsucking attitude.

Pennsylvania should change their law. If the situation is dangerous — and it is — the ban should apply to everyone.


Ray said...

I always found it the height of irony that when we used to buy (and "smuggle") sparklers for our children, we were breaking NY state law, and yet I could have gone out, legally, and bought a selection of lethal firearms together with enough ammunition to annihilate the entire neighbourhood.

It seems to me more than a touch hypocritical that states can be so concerned about the one and yet entirely ignore the other. But I suppose that's what I get for being British.

Barry Leiba said...

Ohhhhh, Ray, don't get me started about the gun thing. Grrrrrrr.....

I'll only point out that on the Disappearing Civil Liberties mug that I got, the Second Amendment is not one of those that disappears. More's the pity.


Dr. Momentum said...

Ray - I'd never thought of that before. Ironic observation.

I agree with you, Barry, on practical and moral grounds. But I do see a slim justification for allowing the sale of fireworks to residents of states which do allow them.

So perhaps Pennsylvania ought to require state ID that proves you are a resident of a state which allows the use of fireworks.

The rub is that those folks don't need to come to Pennsylvania to buy their explosives, so the effect is the same: either people will cheat or the factories will lose business.

So, practically, I think Pennsylvania ought to bring their law on sales in line with their law on use. Or vice versa.

The Ridger, FCD said...

What other things can you build a factory in Pennsylvania to make that you can't use there? The mind boggles at the possibilities.

It's appalling that the only concern here is the profits of Pennsylvania companies.

fireworks said...

barry: we have safety instructions on the very first page of our web site. too much is getting into the hands of juveniles. we need active adult supervision. we restrict our sales to 18 and older. we operate in 4 legal states of AL, SC, IN, & MO. we have enjoyed fireworks for our lifetimes by being careful and obeying safety rules. we also print safety rules on our sacks in big red letters. thanks for your blog and comments. tallpaul shelton, fireworks dad.

Barry Leiba said...

Thanks for the comment, "fireworks". To be clear here, I was complaining about the officials in Pennsylvania, not about the fireworks people.

That said... I don't think "adult supervision" is enough. Safe handling of fireworks, as any explosives, requires specific training. Surviving into one's 20s or beyond doesn't, in itself, qualify one.

I worry most, as you do, about unsupervised children. But I worry about adults too.

Jon said...

The key thing to remember about firearms and fireworks and anything else you could possibly cause bodily harm to a fellow living thing with is: there needs to be someone doing the shooting/lighting/abusing/stabbing/sniffing/you name it otherwise these objects do no harm to anyone. That being said I've long been a believer in natural selection, if your dumb enough to hold a firework in your hand, especially a bursting type, you can't expect people to feel sorry for you. Since firearms were brought up already I might as well point out that I'm a gun collector/target shooter and if I were to be mishandling firearms and injured myself I would have no one to blame but ME.

Andy said...

Maybe someone should change the National Anthem for this countries Independence day. Maybe there were no rockets red glare, or bombs bursting in air.

I believe that you should be able to use fireworks on that one day of our countries Independence, July 4th.

it should be a responsible adult not a child.
And if he or she injures themselves then hey its on them for stupidity.

It is like looking down the barrel of a loaded gun to see if it is clear or not?

Andy A.