Monday, July 07, 2008

A ban on fireworks?

Usually, when some government official starts talking about 'banning' an item, I tend to overreact, primarily because it's not the item that's causing the problem - it's how that item is used by a (usually) irresponsible person.

So, when I saw the headline in today's paper that our police chief wants to ban fireworks because they may be the cause of a terrible apartment fire, I immediate saw today's blog post writing itself.

But then I read the entire article and got to this:

"Toledo Police Chief Michael Navarre yesterday called for the ban on the sale of fireworks. "They have to ban the sale of fireworks, because, in my opinion, it makes absolutely no sense to sell them to people and tell them it's illegal to shoot them off," Chief Navarre said."

This has always puzzled me. We sell fireworks in a state where it is illegal to use them. So if it's illegal to use the product, why is it allowed to be sold? The only items that are legal in Ohio are sparklers, trick noisemakers, and certain novelties. When you purchase anything else, you have to sign a form that says you're promising to take them out of the state.

But the laws are never - or very rarely - enforced. According to Chief Navarre,

"The problem is, it's such a widespread problem, and it's been tolerated for many, many years, and it will be difficult with the resources that we have to crack down," he said.

Meantime, he said his department would look into tougher enforcement against fireworks.

And that's the problem. It really isn't the sale of the items, it's the fact that they are sold and even when people promise to take the items out of state, they don't and they've gotten away with it for ages.

I must admit that I enjoyed the display my neighbors set off over the Maumee Bay, especially with the wind blowing it away from the shoreline. But they were clearly the 'illegal' items and the fact that they were illegal didn't seem to phase anyone, including the police.

So, since the use of fireworks is banned in Ohio, should we go the next step and prohibit the sale of them as well? Imagine all the sales taxes that wouldn't be collected if we did...

If the usage is illegal, should we spend our limited police resources to actually enforce the law?

Or, should we let the sale and usage be legal and just penalize those who are not responsible with the items?

Your thoughts?

5 comments:

Tim Higgins said...

Maggie,

Roland Hansen did a reply on GCJ, and a subsequent posting himself on the subject of selective enforcement of existing freworks laws: http://rolandhansencommentary.blogspot.com/2008/07/fireworks-debate-begets-fireworks.html
which highlights this, and the insanity that can occur with long threads of replies.

As you rightly point out, we do not know that fireworks was the cause of this tragedy yet. If it was, we do not know what the age of those shooting these fireworks off was. We all enjoy fireworks, but as "adults" need to take responsibility for our behavior with regards to the law.

All of that being said, the solution to selective enforcement of existing laws should not be more laws. If the chief had his troops handing out citations instead of passing the buck to legislators after the fact, we might all be better off.

Micah said...

I think legalizing the sale and usage would work. Just have very stiff penalties for stupid people.

Ben said...

It really does make no sense that you can buy something in Ohio that is illegal in Ohio.

Mad Jack said...

Don't ban the sale of fireworks. Instead, legalize the use, license users and collect the revenue.

Chili Dog said...

Renee did a post on this last week, pre-fire.

We tend to over-react when there is a tragedy and want a security blanket to protect ourselves from ourselves.

Shooting fireworks creates a minimal risk of injury and property damage when done properly. If a person engages in this activity and does cause injury or property damage, then it is the person who so behaves that must ultimately pay the price.

I cannot wait for the first lawsuit in the Hunter Ridge case that will name The City of Toledo and Mike Navarre personally as defendants, for failure to enforce an existing law. Rather than merely limiting focus to the culprits, those seeking retribution will look to the deepest pockets around, and frankly I look forward to this battle because the lack of fireworks enforcement coupled with the acquiescence in their sale to unlicensed individuals, has been a concern of mine for years, although I am a participant in this annual ritual.

For those in need of a reality check, people in every community, from those of 100 individuals to large metropoli, shoot off fireworks during the 4th of July celebration. Rather than prosecuting the shooters (an impossible task), why not eliminate the product (or at least restrict access) by closing down the fireworks shops?

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