I must say, I’ve actually changed my mind about a broader legalization of fireworks in Minnesota. I used to be all for joining the ranks of Wisconsin and Dakota’s where exploding bottle rockets, firecrackers, and boomers are available to the general public. But last night I realized that I’ve changed my mind.
Be advised I haven’t changed mind out of concern for safety. Sure people get injured by fireworks but people get injured by a lot of stuff. If we outlawed everything people injure themselves with we’d have no power tools or places where anyone could rent a power tool of any kind. Cars, lawnmowers, boats, and ladders, would be distant memories. I reckon the world is full of dangerous opportunities and people just have to be careful… or not. Whatever.
My change of heart comes from trying to sit in my own back yard last night, on July 3rd, and enjoy a nice evening next to a little fire on the patio. My wife and family decided it was perfect evening to spend some time together relaxing reading, conversing, etc. But that turned out to be impossible because some neighbors 100 yards away decided to produce their own firework display.
Let me tell you about my family- it’s me, my wife… and our two dogs, Ole and Liffey. This is who sits on our patio, or in our screen house on a nice evening like last night… unless big damn loud fireworks are blasting few hundred feet away, or even further down the block. Those fireworks strike terror into Liffey, she runs around looking for cover, pants with fear, and is torn between seeking comfort by being close to us, and wanting to flee into the house, where she’d be alone. After only a few minutes Carlota decided to go into the house with Liffey, Ole followed, and eventually so did I.
I can handle a little community noise and attending celebration now and then, and there will be other nice evenings. But the fireworks that ruined our attempt to enjoy our patio last night were all illegal. You can buy huge packages of perfectly legal fireworks in Minnesota since we partially legalized them a few years ago. The legal fireworks you can buy are really big fireworks, but… they don’t explode either on the ground or in the air. Fireworks that go: “boom” are illegal in Minnesota.
The problem is since we legalized fireworks that don’t go “boom”, the use of fireworks that do go “boom” has increased dramatically. I went back out on the patio after everyone else went to bed (with the doors and windows closed and the AC on so-as to minimize terror of booming fireworks for Liffey), and I was surrounded by booming fireworks until 11:30, with sporadic booms thereafter until 12:30 and beyond.
These are not the illegal fireworks of my 1970s childhood and teenage years. These are very nearly commercial grade displays with very loud reports. The loudest thing I could get my hands on in the 70s and 80s was an M80 or M60, and there weren’t a lot of those around. Last night I heard several dozen loud explosions and it lasted for hours… and this was the 3rd of July, NOT the 4th.
If even two thirds of the people playing with fireworks last night had been playing with legal, relatively quiet fireworks, anyone who wanted to, could have enjoyed sitting in their back (or front) yards. Liffey can handle those quieter displays, and they are just as big and colorful… but they don’t go boom.
This isn’t just about my dog, or even all the dogs and pets that are somewhat terrorized by loud explosions. There are people who don’t appreciate being surrounded by large booms at unexpected times as well. For instance we have growing numbers of combat veterans and others who don’t react well to unexpected explosions.
The problem with loud private fireworks in urban or suburban settings is no one knows when Joe down the block is going to say: “Hold my beer” and set off a huge explosion. We have public fireworks that are really huge and very loud, but anyone who wants to knows where they are, and when they’ll go off; knowing that makes it possible to mitigate or avoid the noise and its and effects.
As I write this Liffey is walking around the house panting and looking for comfort and protection instead of out in the back yard keeping my wife company. Why? Because someone in the neighborhood, in the middle of the day, just said: “Hold my beer” and blew of an explosion. I’m not saying this is big trauma, but it is a significant impact on my family, especially when it goes on for days. This is our 4th of July as well, why can’t WE sit out and enjoy it? Why are we trapped in our house with the windows shut and the AC running? And I’ll venture a guess that we’re not the only ones.
So this is my appeal: Let’s NOT legalize private fireworks that go “boom” in Minnesota. And let’s have some consideration for our neighbors. Keep it legal and don’t subject your neighbors to random explosions for days on end. If you have loud fireworks, and you live in the city or one of the denser suburbs, use some common sense, don’t put on your own show 60 feet from your neighbors houses. We used to go out to the gravel pits or the woods of the North Shore to blow off our M80s, and we were teenagers for crying out loud. Or better yet, why not just go to one of the huge FREE public fireworks scattered around the place? We can have legal fireworks, and ALL enjoy our holiday weekends, but it takes some consideration.