>In Which I Fight For Independence Day Traditions

>Some of our local politicians like to take their power to extremes. One example is Arlington, VA banning all forms of fireworks and making their possession a misdemeanor. I take a look at the history of the law and explain what’s so wrong with it. Originally published here.

Independence Day loses its sparkle in Alexandria

By: Jeremy Skog
Special to The Examiner
06/25/10 12:22 PM EDT

One wonders why Alexandria public schools have a Talented and Gifted Program at all when apparently the entire populace is too dull to manage even the simplest firework. That, at least, is the judgement of mandarins on the Alexandria City Council: William Euille, Rob Krupicka, Redella Pepper and Paul Smedberg who in 2006 voted to make almost all forms of fireworks illegal in the city The list includes even fireworks considered benign elsewhere such as sparklers, poppers, and, interestingly, hot-air balloons. Hopefully, the public can still be trusted with snakes.

In five-alarm prose the Alexandria Fire Department states that:

“Decades of tragic experience have proved that fireworks are too dangerous to be used at home by amateurs. Improper handling of fireworks and sparklers all too often results in injuries. More than 9,600 fireworks injuries occur annually. Of these, 62% of fireworks injuries were burns, while 20% are lacerations. Young people suffer the majority of fireworks injuries, which can result in amputations, severe eye injuries, disfigurement, and even death.”

These injuries would represent about 1% of the 500,000 burn injuries which the American Burn Association claims occur every year. In contrast, the Association states that 32% of burns are due to scalding and 3% are due to chemical burns. Yet household cleaners are still for sale in Alexandria stores and the council has shown no sign of attempting to shut down the many coffee shops which freely sell piping hot beverages to “amateur” consumers.

The reason, of course, is that fireworks make an easy target – they suffer from the same difficulties that all special-interest issues do. It is easy to point to an injured child and claim that one is “working to prevent horrible tragedies,” which always seems to call for an ever-larger role for government in making the decisions of citizens’ lives. It is much harder to point out that freedom sometime exposes us to risks and forces people to take responsibility, weighing risk and reward for themselves. The alternative is a state of perpetual childishness and the supervision it entails. Unfortunately, Arlington voters will have to wait several more years until they can elect representatives who have the courage to treat their constituents like adults.

To deter any potential Guy Fawkes’s the council has decreed that anyone who dares to “store, offer for sale, expose for sale, sell at retail, use or explode any fireworks” can be punished with a fine up to $2,500 and up to a year in jail. Patriotic subjects are advised to attend one of the government-organized rallies rather than attempting to celebrate America’s independence for themselves.

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