Sparklers? They’re Banning Sparklers?

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - October 06, 2010

It is apparent that the majority of the Honolulu City Council has indeed lost its collective mind. Yes, I know many of you believe this happened quite a while ago, but their recent decision to ban consumer fireworks in favor of allowing firecrackers to remain legal is one of the most asinine actions ever taken by government.

Debate and discussion about fireworks in Hawaii have been going on for years, and through all these discussions, there is one irrefutable fact: The people of Hawaii love fireworks. It runs the gamut from simple sparklers to the spectacular professional islandwide shows.

Government has tried to tweak the law to mitigate the damage caused by illegal aerials. I understand and support that. Illegal aerials know no boundaries and, in the hands of alcohol-infused amateurs, do pose fire and safety hazards.

But as with most attempts to ban certain behaviors, the policy simply doesn’t work.

The scofflaws who act like juveniles and recklessly endanger others on celebratory nights are such a small percentage of our community. What’s the exact number? I don’t know. But, anecdotally speaking, responsible revelers far outnumber those who are breaking the law. Now, with the recent action by the City Council, the rest of us who do enjoy basic fireworks have been criminalized.

Proponents of fireworks invoke several arguments in opposition to the ban. Yes, there are cultural implications. The Chinese community is the most vocal in preserving the use of fireworks, especially firecrackers.

There are those who maintain that it’s a time-honored tradition. Yes, I agree. The use of fireworks to celebrate the New Year or the Fourth of July is a fond memory most share. As a kid, I would look forward to the Fourth. Sure, the desire waned as I got older, but as a parent I have as much fun as the kids now with sparklers, poppers and some of the more mellow fireworks. Preserving a tradition from generation to generation should not be dismissed. But even this isn’t the most compelling point for me.

I understand the concerns some have that a fireworks ban impinges on an individual’s freedom of expression. I can see that. But one could counter that if your freedom infringes on my freedom, then freedom ceases to exist. But that isn’t the most compelling point for me.

What is compelling to me is government’s proclivity to effect broad, overreaching bans. Today it’s fireworks. In the recent past, it’s been foie gras, plastic bags, car cell phones, shark fins, smoking, genetic modification of taro, billboards, bright lights (Kauai), fluoride, driving while texting - the list goes on and on.

Compounding the ridiculousness of their actions, the City Council excludes actual firecrackers from the ban - the one thing that generates the most smoke, the most noise and poses the most danger to users and their keiki. If you want to pop firecrackers, they say, all you have to do is pay us $25 and you can fire off 5,000! Are you kidding me? Ban the fireworks that have the least impact, give a pass to the most destructive and pocket the cash. Gordon Gekko could only dream of a legal cash cow like this.

The good news here is that five council members will seek wonderful opportunities and gainful employment in November.

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