It’s interesting to think about all the things that are OK to do in this country probably only by virtue of the fact that they’ve been legal for a long time.
Take driving, for instance. If motorized travel hadn’t been invented and somebody came up with it just now, I’m betting there would be no way it would be allowed. Toxic exhaust! Stripping of our land’s natural resources! The cost to build highways! And my God, don’t you realize you could kill somebody with that thing?
Certainly all of the above apply, and certainly there are troubles associated with a thoroughly motorized society such as ours. But for the most part, we’ve decided we can work around the bad parts by punishing people for what they do wrong with a car (hit people, go too fast, drive drunk, moon old ladies) rather than for having one at all.
On this, our Independence Day, I offer, as I always do, a similar solution to the annual problem of illegal fireworks. I wrote this four years ago and I still feel the same way: It is perfectly acceptable to focus on the actual problems created by a situation rather than to try to eliminate all traces of the situation itself, particularly when there’s absolutely no evidence that elimination effort actually works.
With that, here is my annual fireworks rant:
To begin with, I am a law-abiding citizen. (There was the speeding incident a couple of weeks ago, but it involved the extenuating circumstance of the dying duck, and thus is not to be considered typical.) Yet every year about this time I am sorely tempted to trade in my Good Citizen Badge for some really rockin’ fireworks.
I haven’t done it, nor have I been around anyone who has, although our neighbors usually put on a truly spectacular display each Independence Day. And that’s what brings me to my annual rant: Fireworks laws in Oregon are useless and ought to be overturned.
No, seriously. I really believe this. Drive down any street in the mid-valley on the Fourth of July and you all but have to dive out of the way of the bottle rockets and Roman candles and the mortars exploding over the neighborhoods. THEY’RE EVERYWHERE. You show me even one police officer, one firefighter, who doesn’t have at least one close friend, or possibly a family member, who lets this stuff fly every year, and I’ll show you an officer who has become an expert at saying, like Sgt. Schultz, “I know noss-sing! I see noss-sing!”
When a law is abused to the point where it loses its meaning, you have to ask yourself whether it’s a good and necessary use of time and resources.
I understand the purpose of outlawing certain kinds of fireworks. The idea is to cut down on accidental fires and stupid people blowing their fingers off and various other losses to life, limb and property. I get it already. But why can’t we just concentrate on the end, not the means? Burn down the house next door and get hit with an arson charge. Put out your neighbor’s eye and go up for assault. Put out your own eye and, well, take the consequences for being stupid. You can do all these things with the so-called “legal” fireworks pretty darned near as easily as you can the “illegal” ones. Just takes a little modification, and believe me, people do know how.
Here’s the funny thing, too: The good little law-abiding citizens like me are too chicken to go up to the Indian reservations and drive away with a truckload of firepower, yet we’re probably the ones who would be the most careful and use them the most safely. The ones the law was intended to stop, well, they’re the ones aiming bottle rockets off their pickup hoods, lighting them with a blast of their alcoholic breath and yelling, “Ka-BOOM!”
Meanwhile, the poor schmuck in the patrol car who drew July Fourth duty sighs and turns on his lights and sirens, knowing that by the time he gets there the evidence will be long gone.
I’ve never been known to sympathize greatly with the NRA, but here’s a situation I think falls under their usual argument about criminals and guns.
Let me be very clear here. I am not suggesting that we all abuse the heck out of any old law that we feel like on the grounds that it’s a stupid law. I’m merely saying this particular law is not stopping what it was supposed to stop. I don’t think it’s helping even a little tiny bit. It’s like Prohibition: Great idea, lousy logistics. And therefore I think we as a state ought to sit down and say, “Honestly, why bother?”
Preferably in time for me to stock up a really wicked arsenal.