You have to admit, they didn’t just go Nanny, they went Full Nanny. Among the things banned in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts are those deadly weapons, fireworks. Firecrackers, roman candles, even sparklers: the state’s authorities live in dread that some Bay State bairn might grow up without irrational fear of these, and so they enforce a ban with a heavy hand.
If you want fireworks, Peasant, you can go to the Boston 4th of July display, or you can bootleg your own from New Hampshire (which is also, thanks to lower prices and no sales tax, the best place for a Bay State subject to buy almost anything else). Indeed, if you just want to see fireworks, there’s a display nearly as good as Boston’s July 4th display every Wednesday at Hampton Beach, and on the 4th NH goes all-out. (Of course, Boston bluenoses find Hampton trashy, their word for blue-collar).
But the Commonwealth is working a two-edged campaign against fireworks scofflaws, and fireworks control promises to be effective as Boston’s gun control, which has disarmed everyone except any armed criminals.
Massachusetts’ Department of Transportation is helping law enforcement officials get the word out to motorists to not break the law by bringing fireworks into or through the state, State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan said in a statement issued last week.
You may have seen MassDOT message boards displaying a message over the weekend reminding motorists that fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts – the boards will have that same message June 27-29 and July 3-6.
When state and local police making a motor vehicle stop also discover fireworks, they are required to confiscate the fireworks. In addition, there are fines for the illegal possession and for the sale of fireworks.
The “informational” campaign is not always honest — for example, the State tells people their homeowners insurance doesn’t cover them, but insurers admit it does — but it’s not their only campaign. They also target MA plates returning south from NH border crossings for stops, searching for fireworks with trumped-up probable cause or none at all. (They also seize booze bought in cheaper NH. The State Troopers usually manage to leave the booze off their reports and it’s never seen again. Any guesses?)
And in past years, they’ve even surveilled fireworks businesses in border towns, reporting MA plates back to waiting State Police, not all of whom would rather hassle fireworks buyers than support public safety, but they have to do what they’re told.
So how dangerous are fireworks, anyway? Well, the Fed actually collects that data, through the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The most recent data’s from 2012, and the methodology is pretty questionable (they pulled data from “news clippings and other sources,” for example), but you gotta dance with the data you came with.
In 2012, there were six fireworks fatalities to nonprofessionals nationwide. To put that in perspective, there were 28 deaths from lightning strikes (and the NOAA data seems incomplete). The kinds of fireworks deaths were of interest, though:
In the first incident, a 17-year-old male died of injuries sustained when a sparkler bomb that he and his friend made exploded. In the second incident, a 30-year-old male died of severe facial injuries six days after a mortar- type of firework ignited in his face. In the third incident, a 26-year-old male perished when an illegal 1.3G aerial firework device1 exploded. In the fourth incident, a 60-year-old male died of blunt force trauma when a homemade firework detonated unexpectedly. In the fifth incident, a 30-year-old male suffered severe injuries when explosions destroyed his house while he was making illegal fireworks, and he succumbed five days later. In the sixth incident, a 61-year-old male died at the scene when he ignited a professional-grade firework device while holding its fuse.
Of these, only the second incident seems to have possibly been with a user of over-the-counter fireworks. The others involve Darwin paying a visit to those abusing professional fireworks or trying to kitbash their own. At a certain level, you are not making an illegal firework, you are making an illegal explosive, and you are treading on ground regulated by the BATFE. (Remember the E?).
The CPSC estimates 8,700 ER visits, but the most common injury was burned hands, and 85% of those injured were treated in the ER and not admitted to the hospital. However, when the CPSC investigated what they thought were the 38 most serious injuries from recreational fireworks, they found some of the flaws in their data: one of them was an injury to a fireworks professional, and three more weren’t even fireworks-related. So that’s a data-rot level of 10.6% right from the beginning.
Of the 34 serious fireworks injuries, most expected full recovery, and most were, like the fatalities, from abusing the products. Imagine that. Most injuries of all kinds were caused by firecrackers, sparklers, and bottle rockets. The premium multiple-tube fireworks and novelties that are the bread-and-butter of NH fireworks shops accounted for less than 10% of injuries.
Massachusetts is one of only four states that still bans consumer fireworks. The nationwide trend is towards liberalization of laws, and in New England, NH has liberalized already liberal laws, Maine has liberalized its laws, and Rhode Island has overturned its complete ban. And as the laws have loosened, the deaths and injuries have declined (.pdf file), perhaps because consumers have safer options.
Now, that’s something to light fireworks over. If you’re not under the boot heel of Massachusetts.