Although 46 states allow the sale of fireworks, four remain holdouts, refusing to augment public celebrations of the Fourth of July with the kind of personal display that President John Adams hailed as patriotic activity.
Oddly, those four states make up a substantial component of what might be called the delivery room of our liberty: Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.
Here’s what Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, on July 3, 1776, upon the Second Continental Congress declaring independence from Great Britain: “The day will be most memorable in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, bonfires and illuminations (fireworks) from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
Not in New York.
Here, private fireworks will broadcast our enthusiasm for independence. But they will all be smuggled in and set off in hopes that local police turn a deaf ear.
There are reasons to be wary of anything that ignites and gives off a lot of noise, of course.
Areas out West have banned fireworks for this year because it is believed they constitute a genuine fire hazard during a painfully dry season that has already spurred numerous deadly blazes.
In Kalamazoo, Mich., vigorous debate has taken place over the noise that surely will interfere with peace and quiet of the community.
In Oxnard, Calif., fireworks have been called “among the most risky of consumer products,” with almost 10,000 annual emergency-room visits nationwide from injuries caused by the devices — 40 percent of them to kids under 15.
On the other hand, many merchants in those four states have lamented that all the fireworks that will be bought and secreted in could instead have been purchased locally, with all that commerce taking place right at home.
Our feeling is that the North Country has a historic love affair with fireworks and could manage to make them safe and tolerable for all.
For decades, thousands of people watched in awe every July 4 as the Air Force Base hosted a huge fireworks display. Those displays are still the core of local celebrations hosted by the City of Plattsburgh and a number of other communities.
Instruct the public on how to use snakes, sparklers, firecrackers and the rest of the smaller fireworks. Set times when they will be allowed, and enforce the rules. Prohibit the big stuff. If it’s too dry, debate whether the devices constitute a danger that year, and temporarily ban them if necessary.
But join the rest of the union: Legalize small fireworks.