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Editorial: Reinstate fireworks ban in NY

Editorial: Reinstate fireworks ban in NY

While it won't totally eliminate the problems, returning to a total ban might help reduce disturbances
Editorial: Reinstate fireworks ban in NY
Fireworks display at Price Chopper in 2016.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

This is one of those times when we should have heeded the wisdom of our elders.

Since 1940, shooting off any kind of fireworks was illegal in New York state. 

But after 75 years under a ban, the state Legislature followed dollar signs instead of common sense, and in 2015 allowed counties to authorize the limited sale and use of sparkling devices.

The big stuff was still illegal. And the counties could get some sales tax out of it. Those that didn’t want it could pass their own laws prohibiting sales.

What could be the harm in allowing New Yorkers to have a little fun on the Fourth of July?

As many predicted, this dumb, unnecessary move by the Legislature opened a Pandora’s box to people using all kinds of fireworks, legal and illegal -- sentencing residents of places like Schenectady, where homes are very close together, to all-night concerts of loud blasting, sleepless nights and zombie work days; startling sensitive pets and children; making life hellish for military veterans who suffer from PTSD; and driving police and fire companies crazy running around all night fruitlessly tracking down nuisance fireworks complaints instead of doing their real jobs protecting the citizens.

Some counties like Schenectady County opted to make the sale of even sparklers illegal. But that didn’t stop people from exploiting the patchwork of county laws by driving to the next county to buy fireworks.

Passage of this limited law created the perception that the state had legalized all fireworks, and that empowered many people to buy the loud, high-flying, illegal fireworks from out of state and bring them back home.

Anyone with half a brain knew that would happen. And appealing to people’s sense of community and courtesy has proven to be a fool’s errand.

New York state should end this experiment, slam the door on Pandora’s box and go back to the full ban. The law has been more trouble than it’s worth.

Sure, some people will still go out and buy fireworks from out of state. But that’s not as easy as buying them in the next county.

Reinstating the statewide ban would clarify any questions people had about which fireworks were illegal and which weren’t.

And with fewer overall fireworks, we should see a decrease in the number of disturbances over time.

Of course, people will complain about government overreach if the law is rescinded. “Big Brother is at it again!”

But the Constitution protects the right to bear arms, not fireworks.  There’s no right to shoot off loud, dangerous explosives all night. The famed “rockets’ red glare” that Francis Scott Key saw were actual bombs during an actual war.

If you want to celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks, go to a community fireworks display. That should suffice.

The state’s relaxation of its 75-year-old fireworks ban was a big mistake.

It’s a mistake that should be corrected.

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