That sound you heard on the Fourth of July was not bands playing “God Bless America” or other patriotic songs. No, it was people complaining on social media about fireworks being set off in their neighborhoods.
Where I live in Sacramento, you can buy fireworks for your family 4th of July parties and set them off in front of your homes. In the days leading up to the 4th, there are booths on nearly every street corner, with Boy Scout troops, churches, and school groups selling fireworks as a lucrative fundraiser.
Yes, it can get a little noisy on the 4th of July with so many folks setting off fireworks. There were booms in my neighborhood for nearly 3 hours straight on Wednesday night.
But it’s a sound that I love to hear every year. Why? Because the sound of fireworks is the sound of freedom being celebrated. Naturally, those who want to dictate how to live our lives want to take away that freedom.
Criticism of fireworks falls into two camps. One group is the equivalent of the old people shaking their fists at kids for having too much fun. Think the parents from “A Christmas Story” who warn that “you’ll poke your eye” with a BB gun.
One prominent Sacramento liberal said their neighborhood was like a “war zone” with folks setting off fireworks and called upon the city to join other California cities in outlawing fireworks.
Lately, critics have cited climate change to try and outlaw fireworks. The Sacramento Bee asked readers in a recent editorial whether it was time for California to bring “its July 4 observances into the climate-changed 21st century?” These critics would also ban civic and professional displays too. The California Coastal Commission has tried to shut down municipal fireworks shows over the years, citing environmental and wildlife safety, and prompting past legislative efforts to try and stop them.
In some parts of California, particularly in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, fireworks are banned. In some high fire risk areas in the Sierra region, even municipal displays are banned, and for good reason.
But prohibition doesn’t stop people from setting them off anyway. Look at this video shot by NBC 4 in Los Angeles on Wednesday night showing all of the illegal family fireworks displays. This shows the futility of any proposal to ban fireworks.
In my view, the debate over personal fireworks comes down to one of personal responsibility. If you set off some fireworks at your family 4th of July party and don’t hurt anyone, then what’s the harm? But you burn down someone’s house with your fireworks, then it’s your financial responsibility to pay for the damage.
Outside of reasonable regulations to protect public safety, Californian’s should have the freedom to celebrate the 4th of July with the “rocket’s red glare and the bombs bursting in air” right in front of their own homes.
Tim Anaya is communications director for the Pacific Research Institute.