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By Jeff Terrill
Fort Wayne Reader
How long do you think a candy bar would stay on the shelves if it were causing kids to be hospitalized? Suppose a flashlight started blinding and burning children? Do you think lawmakers and regulatory agencies might act swiftly against those manufacturers and retailers? I think so.
Soon, we will be celebrating Independence Day. Many people associate the 4th of July with outdoor barbecues, family, hot sun Ö and fireworks.
Every 4th of July, thousands of people injured by fireworks are rushed to emergency rooms. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimates that in 2010 fireworks caused 15,500 fires in this country and led to $36 million in direct property damage. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that in that same year 8,6000 people were treated in emergency rooms for firework injuries. Burns comprised over 50% of the injuries. More worrying is that over half of all injuries caused by fireworks were sustained by children and young adults under the age of 20. Hands, eyes, faces and arms seem to be the most popular locations for these injuries. This 4th of July, the young and the old will lose body parts, vision and hearing from consumer firework accidents. Firecrackers, sparklers and bottle rockets are the leading contributors to these injuries.
In year 2000, a report by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimated the annual cost at $100 million for firework related injuries. The NFPA strongly opposes the use of consumer fireworks. Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York have banned access by the public to all fireworks. Illinois and Ohio are among five states that allow only sparklers or other novelty type consumer fireworks. Indiana is one of 40 states that allow some or all consumer fireworks to be purchased and/or ignited.
I really donít like fireworks. Iím not a fan of the sounds they make and I donít enjoy their smell. When I was a kid, I worried that a bottle rocket would burn down my house or blow up a car. Iím not that crazy about professional firework displays either, but Iíve watched my fair share and Iím sure Iíll watch a few more. My kids like fireworks. I think most kids do. I have a lot of friends that like them too. But I also know people who feel like I do. It seems fireworks are really polarizing. I donít meet too many people who are indifferent about them. You either love them or you hate them. For many, fireworks mean summer and celebration. Maybe fireworks help people reflect on the good times they had launching those fire bombs with their folks. Iím all for old- fashioned family fun. Iím just surprised fireworks are legal. How many fires? How many fingers need to be lost before they are illegal?
Every gun does not shoot someone. Not all cars end up crashing into trees. I get that. Not all consumer fireworks lead to injuries. But guns and cars, for example, are heavily regulated. There are age limits and stiff penalties for their misuse. Not so much with consumer fireworks. People light them and then watch them explode. No training, no permit required. Children are attracted to fireworks. How many adults (ok, sober adults) do you expect to see this holiday running around with lit sparklers? Not many. I used to think sparklers were made for young kids. I liked them. I thought they were safe. Iím pretty sure my parents thought so too. I had no idea they burned at a temperature over 1200 degrees F. Most parents donít let their kids anywhere near a burning kitchen oven. But for some reason some will buy them a box of sparklers and let them run wild.
In Indiana, a person must be 18 years or older to purchase fireworks. If a child under 18 years of age wants to set off fireworks, he just needs to make sure someone 18 years of age or older is around to supervise. Fireworks can only be set off on a personís own property or with the permission of the property owner. The reckless or intentional misuse of fireworks that injures another or causes a substantial risk of injury to another could be charged as a crime. Hereís the real kicker: a person can only shoot consumer fireworks from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. unless, of course, the day is Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day or New Yearís Eve. On those holidays, a person has from 9:00 a.m. to midnight to annoy his neighbors. Thatís only 15 hours a day. Is that really enough time?
Donít worry about me this 4th of July. Iíll be fine. Iím thinking about a trip to New Jersey. I understand itís especially pleasant on July 4th.
Jeff Terrill is a partner/shareholder with the law firm of Arnold Terrill Anzini, P.C. Mr. Terrill represents clients accused of crimes throughout northeast Indiana. You can contact Mr. Terrill with any questions or comments at his office at 260.420.7777 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about his firm at www.fortwaynedefense.com. _This article expressed opinions and observations of the author, is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader. Please consult a qualified attorney with any legal questions or issues you might have. Thank you.