The Fourth of July has come and gone, and not surpisingly, a series of fireworks accidents has led State Fire Marshal William Degnan to call for a ban on the sale of all types of fireworks.
Also not surprisingly, the Union Leader ediitorialized against such a ban while the Concord Monitor came out in support, at least of a partial ban.
Both papers and others ran large bold headlines on Degnan's crusade (see link below).
What is surprising, however, is that no one in the media seems to have picked up on the fact that the New Hampshire House Criminal Justice Committee (on which I sit) explored the issue in great detail this past session and was unanimous against legislation to further restrict fireworks sales.
It wasn't just libertarian-minded committee Republicans, like Mark Warden, Kyle Tasker, and I.
It wasn't just your more establishment Republicans on the committee.
Each and every Democrat, some who could rightly be termed nanny staters, also came down solidly against any fireworks ban. I recall former Rep.Delmar Burridge, from Keene, (he resigned mid-term) being particularly against any crackdown.
This was after the committee held a marathon hearing (four or five hours) and heard heart-wrenching testimony from those involved in that Pelham disaster a few years ago. Yes, William Degnan was among those present and testifying at the hearing.
The reaction from all committee members was that as tragic as fireworks accidents can be, the fault is not with the devices, but rather with those who fail to properly follow directions which come with the sale of all type of fireworks.
The bill never had a chance of passing. Even a watered down version, offered by Chair Laura Pantelakos, D-Portsmouth, was quickly voted down.
Why? Because the amendment would have mandated warnings which already exist.
Allow me to repeat that.
Warnings and instructions already come with all fireworks sold in New Hampshire.
The Concord Monitor, I suppose, could be excused for not rehashing the hours of testimony on the bill. After all, Monitor reporters come and go so frequently, this year's writer was most likely not here last year, but I seem to recall several reporters sitting in on that marathon public hearing.
If the House decided to do nothing in the wake of the terrible tragedy a few years ago, I fail to see how a few far less serious accidents this summer could turn the tide, but then, of course, that all depends on who gets elected in November.
I frankly was shocked at how the entire committee, while sympathizing with the plight of those injured in fireworks accidents, simply failed to slip into nanny state mode. (Recall how Democrats on the committee were falling over themselves to pass a bill allowing police to purchase license plate scanners; the committee fortunately was overturned big time on the House floor). Nary a soul agreed with Degnan. Maybe that's why even the Monitor, in its editorial, could not concur with Degnan on a total ban.
In the battle of editorials, I'll side with the Union Leader this time. In a July 9 editorial entitled, "Ban fireworks? Get serious", the Union Leader notes how fireworks-related injuries nationwide for the past 15 years have been 3.2 per 100,000 people as opposed to 298 traumatic brain injuries per 100,000 for those involved in youth sports.
The Monitor, in its editorial "State should ban some types of fireworks" a day later, scoffed at the Union Leader analogy, but it seems valid to me.
"Freedom is risky," the Union Leader concludes, "but it's better than the alternative."
Such logic on the issue of legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana would be welcome from the Union Leader.
While fireworks if used improperly can indeed hurt other people, marijuana hurts no one and in fact has been proven to be befeficial.
Thus, we would hope the Union Leader would apply its newfound "freedom is risky" philosophy when the marijuana debate heats up again nexy year. As the consummate nanny staters, Concord Monitor editorial writers are most likely beyond hope.
As always, I choose to separate my personal beliefs (I truly dislike these fireworks; yes, they scare me) from my ideas of what public policy should be. I need not use these fireworks to defend your right to use them, just like I need not be gay to champion marriage equality nor need I be a pot smoker to favor legalization.
Government should leave people alone to the greatest extent possible.
With fireworks, it's clearly a case of caveat emptor; the buyer (and user) should beware.
You'll never see me with fireworks. A few years ago, a friend of my brother had some he was setting off just before (and after) the city of Vergennes ran its official fireworks display. I didn't like them one bit, but rather than telling this person he shouldn't be using them, I simply got out of the way.
That's also what I did on New Years Eve when I was living in Berlin, Germanhy. I considered it unsafe to be out--the Germans apparently are big on explosions--so guess what...I stayed inside.
Those who fear accidents with fireworks have every right to simply avoid them...just like those who oppose gay marriage need not marry a gay person.
Those who want to waste their money on fireworks....well, just like with gambling... it's their money I prefer spending my money on a trip to Montreal where they do fireworks big time--the real thing that is; in fact, there's an international competition every summer.
By the way, that recent photo was of the Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal with fireworks exploding overhead. Along with thousands of others, I actually walked to the top (about 20 minutes each way, I kid you not) for the USA show last night...pretty good, but I can't imagine making the trek every week (sometimes twice) as Montrealers do in the summer.
manchesterunionleader.nh.newsmemory.com/publink.php?shareid...Jul 8, 2014 - New Hampshire State Fire Marshal William Degnan is calling for a banon all “reloadable mortar” style fireworksand eventually, a ban on all ...