Foss: Exercise common sense, decency on July 4th

Fireworks becoming a problem
Illegal fireworks tower over roof tops of homes on Schenectady Street on Hamilton Hill on July 4, 2016.
Illegal fireworks tower over roof tops of homes on Schenectady Street on Hamilton Hill on July 4, 2016.

I first started hearing fireworks about a month ago. 

Just a few, here and there — the occasional loud pop puncturing an otherwise quiet summer evening. 

As July 4th approaches, these loud pops are becoming more common, as people stock up on fireworks and set them off whenever and wherever they please. 

It’s an annual ritual, one that went from being a minor nuisance to a major irritant after counties throughout the state elected to legalize certain types of fireworks. 

One county seeking to put the genie back in the bottle, so to speak, is Schenectady, which last year repealed a local law allowing the limited use of sparklers and other small fireworks. Earlier this year the Schenectady City Council approved a fine of up to $250 per firework illegally launched in the city. 

Whether these measures will change the “anything goes!” attitude so many people have toward fireworks remains to be seen. 

Passing new laws and fines is easy. 

What’s difficult is enforcement. 

If nobody is fined for using illegal fireworks, the impact of the new law will be negligible, at best. People will feel free to ignore it, secure in the knowledge that their actions have no consequences. 

I have mixed feelings about fining people for using fireworks. 

What I’d prefer is that fines weren’t necessary, that people would exercise some common sense and basic decency on July 4th, rather than using it as an excuse to misbehave and terrorize their neighbors. 

If there’s a chance shooting off fireworks could burn someone’s house down, don’t do it. If it’s late at night and most people have gone to bed, don’t do it. If it’s not late, but you’re standing in the middle of a throng of Independence Day revelers, don’t do it. 

I’m mostly concerned about the damage those who set off fireworks can inflict on the people around them. 

But it’s worth noting that each year people injure themselves lighting off fireworks.

And the research suggests that, as states relax restrictions on fireworks, fireworks-related injuries are on the rise. 

According to a 2017 article in the magazine Scientific American, in 2016 fireworks injured 3.4 out of every 100,000 people. That represents an increase from 2008, when fireworks injured 2.3 out of every 100,000 people. 

“Back in 1986, fireworks injured about 6.6 out of every 100,000 people,” the article notes. “Since 1986, injuries have steadily fallen as government regulations made them safer. … But as states have relaxed restrictions, the injuries have started increasing again.”   

Nobody likes being told what to do (or not do) by the nanny state, but fireworks are dangerous and restricting and regulating their use makes sense. 

What doesn’t make sense is pretending otherwise and depicting those opposed to legalization as killjoys out to ruin everybody’s fun. 

In reality, those carelessly shooting fireworks off in densely populated neighborhoods are the ones jeopardizing everybody’s right to enjoy a safe and fun-filled 4th. 

I enjoy a good fireworks show as much as the next person, but not when it’s being put on by drunken neighbors, and I suspect most people feel the same way. 

Let’s exercise some common sense and decency this July 4th, and ensure that the holiday is fun for all. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.


Categories: News, Opinion, Schenectady County

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