The Declaration of Independence, signed 231 years ago tomorrow, shines brightly to this day as a beacon of liberty in a world still too oppressed. So why, we ask in our annual Fourth of July editorial, are New Yorkers forced to celebrate in the dark? The Founding Fathers believed that the Fourth of July should be celebrated with "bonfires and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other, from this day forward ever more." Yet at this end of the continent, we New Yorkers live in one of only five states that completely outlaw personal use of fireworks. The state has had a ban on the books in one form or another since 1965.
Although safety is often cited as a justification for such laws, personal responsibility seems to have more bearing on safety than the fireworks themselves. According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, a trade group, consumption of fireworks, measured in millions of pounds, increased 870% between 1976 and 2005. During the same period, injuries, measured in injuries per 100,000 pounds of fireworks sold, fell 90.1%, so that last year there were only 3.8 injuries reported per 100,000 pounds sold. Fireworks account for only about 0.01% of the 70 million personal injuries suffered by Americans each year. Ovens are at least four times as dangerous.
New York's ban seems even more insulting when one considers the completely unnecessary burden it puts on law enforcement. Already this year the New York Police Department has seized 29 cars carrying illegal fireworks, arrested 91 people on charges related to trafficking and possessing illegal fireworks, including six on felony charges, seized 721 cases of fireworks, and given out 61 summonses and six juvenile reports.
An NYPD spokesman, Assistant Chief Michael Collins, attributed significantly fewer arrests and seizures this year to increasing awareness of the NYPD's heightened enforcement measures. The city's enforcement efforts on fireworks read like something more worthy of a counterterrorism program. This year, the police department has worked with surrounding jurisdictions to track down traffickers and used checkpoints at the bridges and tunnels to search vehicles for fireworks as they enter the city. In addition, on Monday Police Commissioner Kelly said, "We are very openly monitoring activities in other states."
What kind of message is that sending to the youngsters of this city? George Washington would have been disgusted. We don't blame the police commissioner or the police; they don't write these laws. They are sworn to enforce them. The legislature owes them other priorities. On this Independence Day holiday, Americans are indeed in danger. But the danger comes from those terrorists who seek to destroy our liberties, not from the means ordinary New Yorkers would like to use to celebrate the country's founding, the very way for which the Founders themselves called. The signers of the Declaration of Independence took a great risk in affixing their names to that parchment. There's absolutely no reason for Albany to spoil our national holiday by preventing New Yorkers from taking their own risks to celebrate that achievement.
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
'Bonfires & Illuminations'
In it's annual Fourth of July tradition, The New York Sun renews its call for the repeal of New York's ban on fireworks, to which I'd add a hearty hear-hear: