The "old west" fireworks laws in Indiana need reform
Note: I originally wrote this in July 2013 for Hoosier Access.
See another blog post: Indiana's dangerous and irresponsible fireworks laws.
As a philosophical libertarian, I do not believe government should be protecting adults from themselves. So long as people are only harming themselves, government should generally not prohibit behaviors we see as "risky" or we personally dislike.
When government needs to step in is when the behavior of one person harms or unnecessarily endangers another person. That is why we have laws against drunk driving, because operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated endangers those around you and therefore violates their rights.
This is where our laws about fireworks come in. Matt Tully had a well-researched article last month about fireworks laws and the influence of fireworks industry lobbyists, and why the trajectory has been toward a more laissez-faire approach to fireworks laws.
The right of one person to set off fireworks should end when it endangers the lives or property of someone else. Specifically, allowing people to shoot explosives high into the air in a residential neighborhood is an invitation to disaster. All it would take is one rocket that does not explode in the air as it is supposed to and instead explodes after it lands on someone's roof to cause immense property damage and potentially cause serious injuries or even fatalities.
More to the point, the absolute right to set off fireworks around the Fourth of July and New year's Eve is absurd, especially in severe drought conditions like we had in the summer of 2012. We should trust local governments to know what is best for their communities and enforce local bans when appropriate, even around July Fourth. It is insane to not allow local governments to protect public safety in a situation like that. This should be repealed.
Let's not completely ruin everyone's fun. We all like to celebrate events like the Fourth of July. But we need to have common sense laws that protect public safety, as we do with drunk driving. The legislature should tighten the restrictions on what fireworks can be sold in Indiana, since making people promise to use them elsewhere is absurd.
The first place to start is with fireworks that launch high into the air, which should only be used by people with a license in a designated safe zone. That, and allowing local government to ban fireworks use when necessary, are two common-sense reforms that should be easily achievable.