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Indiana's dangerous and irresponsible fireworks laws

By Scott Tibbs, July 16, 2014

I hold to a generally libertarian philosophy of government, but I am not an anarchist. I believe you should be able to do as you please unless you are causing real physical harm to others. It is (and should be) illegal to recklessly place others in danger. This is why we ban drunk driving, even if the drunk driver does not cause an accident.

It is under this principle that consumer fireworks that launch into the air and explode should either be banned outright or severely restricted in their use.

Twelve years ago, the use of those fireworks (including "sky rockets") was not permitted in the state of Indiana, according to the Crawfordsville Journal-Review. (I have not been able to find the legislation that changed that law, or what year it changed.) Since then, the use of those fireworks has been legalized.

That was a mistake that should be reversed.

The previous law was a joke that reduced respect for the rule of law. It was perfectly legal to sell them, but illegal to use them. The idea that someone in central Indiana would buy these fireworks and drive an hour and a half to two hours in any direction to use them legally was simply laughable. Everyone knew it was institutionalized lies and hypocrisy. That law needed to be changed, if for no other reason than to restore respect for the rule of law, to not make Indiana the laughingstock of the nation and to restore Hoosiers' respect of our civil magistrate.

Unfortunately, it changed in the wrong direction.

I understand the reasoning for liberalizing rather than strengthening the law. It would have been grossly unfair to merchants to tell them that a product that has been perfectly legal to sell for many years is suddenly illegal. It would have been harmful to those merchants, especially if they relied on those fireworks for a significant portion of their sales.

It was still the wrong decision. Sky rockets - the ones that launch into the air and explode - have no business being set off in a residential neighborhood. The noise is not the problem as much as the risk of property damage and even injuries or fatalities to neighbors. All it would take is for one of those to fail to explode and land on someone's roof to cause extensive property damage - especially if it landed near a window.

Indiana's fireworks laws are so completely absurd that the state legislature has forbidden local communities from banning fireworks use during a severe drought between a set of days surrounding the Fourth of July. Apparently the state legislature believes we live in a magical fairly land where severe droughts are suspended for a few days around July 4. Those of us who live in the real world remember what it was like during the severe Summer 2012 drought.

The common sense position (notably absent in our state legislature) is identical to the libertarian position - that position being "your rights end when you are using explosives that endanger my property, my pets and my family." While there would be some economic harm in doing so (and legitimate charges of hypocrisy) the general assembly needs to fix the dangerously stupid law that allowed the use of previously restricted fireworks.