Why I Hate the Fourth of July

Frightened_Dog

Every July Fourth holiday finds me holed up in my house, windows shut tight, blinds down and TV blaring as I try to keep three dogs from going into cardiac arrest as my neighborhood erupts with explosions, rockets and small-arms fire.

See, for some reason, people in Miami believe it’s a patriotic thing to walk outside and unload a clip heavenward. I guess they must have skipped physics class the day gravity was discussed. At least every other year in South Florida, some poor schmuck gets hit by a falling bullet while watching a fireworks show or walking the dog.

In my opinion, that’s a good reason to keep a roof and a ceiling between oneself and the sky on July 4.

The Fourth is simply a dangerous holiday throughout the U.S., according to the National Fire Prevention Association:

  • In 2008, fireworks caused about 22,500 fires, including 1,400 structure, 500 vehicle and 20,600 other fires. They resulted in one death, 40 injuries and $42 million in property damage.
  • In 2008, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated about 7,000 people for fireworks-related injuries; 53 percent were to the extremities and 37 percent were to the head.
  • The risk of fireworks injury is highest for teens ages 15-19 and children 5-9.

The thing is, in Florida dangerous fireworks — those that leave the ground or explode — are illegal. We’re supposed to only have sparklers and pinwheels. According to the Ocala Star-Banner, the law has a giant loophole through which Floridians eagerly squirm this time of year:

A state appellate court ruled eight years ago that fireworks dealers can sell those banned items if the customer signs a waiver. The waiver states the customer has read Chapter 791 of the law, which covers fireworks, and that the customer intends to use the otherwise banned items for one of the listed exemptions.

The most common exemption cited is that the fireworks will be used for agricultural purposes – to scare birds away from crops and fish hatcheries.

In June 2004, the Florida State Fire Marshal’s Office reinforced that policy. It told fire departments and law enforcement agencies that it’s legal for fireworks dealers to sell the banned items under the conditions set forth in 2002.

Officials say jokingly that there are more birds being scared off Marion County properties on July 4 than on any other day of the year.

Most cities have laws on the books banning all fireworks within their city limits, but they are pretty much unenforceable:

According to the legislation, law enforcement agencies are ultimately responsible for enforcing the fireworks law, though in reality an officer must actually see the person use exploding fireworks in an unauthorized manner.

The end result is that most every backyard party on the Fourth of July, and New Year’s Eve for that matter, have a few “illegal” fireworks displays. And usually law enforcement will only confiscate the items and issue stern warning if they are called to illegal displays.

A person caught using illegal fireworks can be charged with a misdemeanor. The fireworks dealer cannot be held accountable.

It’s rather libertarian, isn’t it? In Florida you’re allowed to purchase illegal fireworks if you sign a waiver saying you read the law that made the fireworks illegal. Simply reading the statute renders the statute moot. Is Florida a great state, or what?

Anyway, I don’t think the fellows who signed the Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776, intended for the date to be commemorated by blowing off fingers or exercising one’s Second Amendment rights in the backyard.

So, like a true patriot, come Sunday, I’ll be hunkered down with three nervous dogs, sipping some scotch and watching the “John Adams” miniseries.

2 Comments

  • Trish
    July 2, 2010 - 12:11 pm | Permalink

    I think all the exploding things madness resides on the Y chromosome. Women don’t really get into it.

  • July 2, 2010 - 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Same here — and it hasn’t rained in two months, so everything is dry as tinder.

    We really liked the John Adams series. Brilliant casting, especially David Morse as Washington.

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