Every Independence Day, the Illinois Policy Institute reminds our state’s residents of the irony they celebrate their freedoms while being denied a choice residents of 47 other states enjoy: shooting off a few backyard bottle rockets or firecrackers.
Since 1942, the Illinois’ Pyrotechnic Use Act has prohibited residents from buying and using fireworks other than novelties such as sparklers and smoke bombs. Our state promises to punish violators as criminals with a class A misdemeanor, fines ranging from $75 to $2,500.
Elgin city leaders just decided a $750 fine was not enough for those caught lighting off fireworks three times within a year. They doubled the penalty to $1,500. First offenders receive counseling, or a $750 fine.
And our nanny-in-chief, Gov. J.B. Pritzker, just reminded everyone of the benefits of our state being one of the few to keep Illinoisans safe from themselves: “Amateur Fireworks, Not Worth the Risk. 168 injuries and 20 dismemberment/amputation injuries caused by fireworks in Illinois during 2022.”
If Pritzker and the other protective politicians really want to keep us safe, maybe they should simply lock us all in our homes. Oh, wait. They already did that, kept students out of public school well after other children safely returned and then enforced one-man rule and pandemic mandates for more than three years. Where was the harm in that?
Better yet, the political elite should go after our real danger to ourselves. They should ban motor vehicles.
We saw 1,269 people die in vehicle crashes in Illinois during 2022. So many people dying is inherently worse than 168 people hurt by fireworks.
Facetious? Yup. But the point is there are vast benefits to using cars and trucks. The benefits outweigh the risks.
So what benefit were those 168 people enjoying when injured? They were enjoying a celebration of the freedoms some paid the ultimate price to offer them. They were heeding John Adams’ admonition the day was to be celebrated “with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”
The risk was they were a tiny, tiny fraction of the 12.58 million Illinois residents. And they were hurt even though Illinois told them they were not allowed to set off those fireworks.
In the decade since legalization, fireworks-related injuries in Indiana fell. Nationwide, we set off nearly 462 million pounds of fireworks in 2022. That’s more than double what we set off 20 years ago, but the injuries have remained steady throughout the years at about 10,000.
If we were so concerned about safety, why do we allow Illinois children to use sparklers? They are made of magnesium burning at 1,800 degrees and made of the same chemical used to set off bombs and propel rockets. Pritzker fails to detail how many of the 168 people were hurt by legal fireworks.
There are other Independence Day activities much more dangerous than fireworks. For every fireworks injury in 2021, there were two people injured grilling, four people injured baking an apple pie and six hurt playing baseball.
Ban America’s pastime out of safety concerns? Well, that would be un-American.
About as un-American as telling freedom-loving adults they can’t be trusted to light a firecracker.
Happy Independence Day.
Brad Weisenstein is the managing editor for the Illinois Policy Institute, a freedom-loving think tank seeking nonpartisan, free-market answers to Illinois’ public policy problems.