Monday, July 3, 2017

The Idiocies of Legalized Fireworks

Look, what did you think was going to happen? You legalize fireworks and of course the number of fireworks that got purchased and used is going to increase- exponentially for the first year (hopefully it will level out and diminish in coming years.) Making fireworks illegal has never once stopped people from purchasing them and using them. And if they're going to be legal and purchased, they might as well be legal and purchased in Iowa, right? Makes sense.

And yet, Iowa City (and many other cities) in its wisdom has made the sale and purchase of fireworks legal yet expects it's residents not to actually use them. So, as the P-C reported the ICPD responded to 1 fireworks complaint last month and they're already at 57 for the month as of July 1st.*

In general, I've reconciled myself to the provincial narrow mindedness that can rear it's ugly head from time to time living in this town. The same townies that spent my youth bemoaning the out of control bar culture and the kids running amuck and all but demanding that the University do something about it are the first to call and complain when the University throws a concert that goes beyond their regularly scheduled bed time. People who should know better, who should, one hopes realize where they live have called to complain about noise from the Stadium on game days.

I grit my teeth. I roll my eyes. I deal with it.

But when it comes to fireworks honestly, what did you think was going to happen?

Look, I get the pet argument. I have pets and I don't want my pets hiding under a couch for the next week or so. Same with the PTSD argument. I've been in major cities where fireworks are legal for the 4th and if I was a veteran who had come back from overseas with a suitcase full of stuff I'd rather not talk about, they would be the last places I'd want to be for the July 4th holiday.

I get Iowa's history with the issue. I can even understand the urge to want to try and put the toothpaste back in the tube. But this limbo that we've stuck ourselves with is untenable, plain and simple. It's a waste of law enforcement time and taxpayer money to have our first responders spend the better part of a week running down scores of fireworks complaints.

Don't get me wrong: idiots putting firecrackers where they don't belong? Alcohol fueled fireworks parties that get people hurt? Those are worth calling about. Those are worth responding too. Those are worth fining and potentially arresting people for.

I don't think the toothpaste is going to go back in the tube at this point**. (And oh, the delicious irony of having to have a statewide minimum wage because we can't have municipalities and counties getting any ideas, now can we? But feel free to restrict the use and sale of fireworks all you want. We'll trust you with explosives just not with wages.)  But I think we need to tweak things a little bit. Municipalities are fighting a losing battle with this and while we can hope that the novelty is going to wear off by next year, a wise municipality would do well to surrender to the inevitable and just let people do what they're going to do from July 1st to the 5th every year. You could put time limits on it if you want- say Noon to Midnight. But you can't have your cake and eat it too.

If people can buy fireworks, they're going to use them. The sooner cities and counties accept the fact, the sooner the focus for fireworks can be brought back to where it should be for government agencies and first responders: making sure that everyone who uses fireworks does so in a safe and responsible manner.

*Can confirm. (Day Job Tangent!) I was working and it was... idiotic the number of calls they were getting. The amount of time they were spending dealing with them all was...  beyond idiotic. 

**It's not like Iowa is an island of legal fireworks either. Only NJ, MA and DE have complete bans on consumer fireworks and every other state allows some kind of fireworks usage by consumers.

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