North Dakota Senate On Bottle Rockets Ban: You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out


The North Dakota Senate today, despite having already passed a bill to expand the dates during which fireworks in general can be sold, voted down a bill to lift a ban on the sale of bottle rockets specifically.

Here’s the nauseatingly paternalistic floor debate:

“This isn’t about freedom,” Senator Dave Oehlke said. “This is about eyes being put out. … It’s all in good fun until somebody gets their eye put out.”

Senator George Sinner suggested that the bill was really just a sop to fireworks dealers. “This bill is not about liberty,” he said. “This bill is about the fireworks industry selling more stuff.”

Of course, left unsaid there is it’s about the fireworks industry wanting to sell more stuff to people who want to buy it.

There was much talk about the dangers of bottle rockets, and multiple legislators claim that injuries from fireworks have fallen 50% since 2009 when this ban was instituted. But Senator Kelly Armstrong pointed out that there were a small number of injuries before the ban, and the reduction in injuries was more like a decline from 5 to 2.

It’s hard to say that represents any sort of a trend started by the ban on the sale of bottle rockets. Especially considering that the use of bottle rockets is still perfectly legal.

Armstrong’s point is backed up by the statistics for national fireworks injuries, which multiple bottle rocket ban supporters cited as about 9,000 per year. That’s not a lot of injuries for an entire country of hundreds of millions of people. By contrast, there are more than half a million injuries to kids playing high school football in any given year.

Is the legislature going to ban high school sports next? Or should we just admit that many of the activities we find fun have a certain amount of risk to them that we’re just going to have to accept?

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • ec99

    While seemingly trivial, this underscores the extent to which government controls citizens in a supposedly conservative and rugged individualist state. Their patriarchal attitude is nauseating. Then, when they canvass neighborhoods for votes, and are challenged about the power grabs, they tap dance around the issue, knowing that incumbent almost always means reelection.

    • Rob

      I agree.

  • dlao

    how many people are killed or seriously injured by the automobile. When will one of these geniuses call for banning the automobile?

    • Rob

      Well not just automobiles, but how about hunting injuries? Should we ban hunting because of hunting accidents?

      The high school sports example is pertinent too. It’s a government-sanctioned (through the public schools) activity, and nationally there are huge numbers of injuries related to it.

      How about we just admit that life can be sort of risky?

      • ec99

        Outlaw: cars, hunting, electrified houses, hair dryers, stoves, liquor, tobacco, motorized law mowers, ladders, cupboards over five feet above the floor, toasters…everything that could possibly harm one single person. Then exempt legislators from the prohibitions.

        • RCND

          Outlaw money. If people didn’t have such easy access to it they would not be able to carry out getting those things you mention which they could hurt themselves and others with

          • Rob

            We should just make it illegal to do anything but lay in a darkened room and breathe shallowly. Maximum safety.

          • scanham2

            Yes, and make the use of helmets mandatory even then.

  • camsaure

    Can we really trust these bufoons to trust us with our guns and the second ammendment and with other God given rights, when they refuse to trust us with bottle rockets?

  • JimTownGuy

    A fish hook could “put an eye out.” They need to ban fishing immediately.

    • Rob

      I wonder how many people injure themselves with kitchen cutlery any more? Clearly, cooking is too dangerous.

      • ec99

        I once cut open a finger slicing a bagel. Am waiting for the cops to confiscate my knife.

        • KJUU

          Funny enough, bagel-slicing injuries are one of the top emergency room visits.

        • Rob

          I tripped going up the stairs earlier. Let’s ban multi-level homes.

      • Anon

        The low amount of voter fraud didn’t stop a hack like you from advocating draconian voter registration and identification regulations. What a hack!

  • Mike Peterson

    Wait, I thought the Republican stance was more freedom and less government? Oh wait, this is North Dakota.

  • Anon

    Highschool football is a terrible comparison. Players are assuming a risk of injury in that situation. In contrast, people being injured by bottle rockets are often innocent bystanders. Moreover, over 83% of firework injuries are a result of bottle rockets, which fire end explode erratically compared to other fireworks. Rob would know that if he’d bothered to do some research or think logically for once. What a hack!,8010480

    • Thresherman

      Nothing says quality research like citing a small newspaper article from June 25, 1995!

      • Anon

        Nothing says Thresherman’s retarded like ignoring the fact the number came from American Academy of Opthamalogy. Then again, Thresherman once argued ACS fired the locked out workers, a position that entitled them to unemployment benefits, even though that was the conclusion he was arguing against. Oh Thresherman, your poor reasoning and argument skills are always a constant source of bemusement!

        • Shadowwalker

          I had decided to lay in the weeds today until you, Anon, decided to show the rest of the world your ignorance. I understand that to be ignorant of contract laws and how contract labor works could escape someone with an agenda or for those that would prey on uneducated simple minded folks that rule their lives by emotion. Once that contract had expired they had the choice to accept a new one or stop providing labor to the company. ACS let them go past their agreed upon term in hopes that they would not have to put the employees that were part of this union contract for labor out of work. The reality of the situation is that ACS had no legal need to continue to accept labor from anyone that belonged to a union that was no longer under contract to provide a labor force. It is unfortunate that those people were and are out of work because of the choices that the union had made. The reality of this situation is that those that voted to not renew or accept a new contract had a choice to make and need to live with the consequences of their actions. Nobody forced them to vote down the contract or remain unemployed after the contract was not accepted. Take responsibility for your actions and do something productive with your lives. But I guess it is a lot easier to whine and complain about how unfair it is than to get off your donkey and do something with your life. The same goes for bottle rockets. Most accidents don’t happen because everyone is being extremely careful in their use. If one is responsible about the use of bottle rockets and use them according to the manufactures’ directions would greatly decrease the risk to putting an eye out. This is about as good as blaming the spoon for making your wife’s dress make her butt look big…. or maybe we should put Cass Clay out of business for making their ice creme so good. It’s just a thought.

          • Anon

            Wow, that’s great. Too bad the whole debate was about whether the locked out workers are entitled to unemployment benefits and your apparently too ignorant of the law to realize that your argument grants the locked out workers unemployment benefits because the contract expired and not because it was a strike. Thanks for adding your name to the list of conservatives who can’t think through their bullsh*t, Shadowalker! But I guess it is a lot easier to whine and complain and pretend you have any semblance of knowing what you’re talking about.

          • Thresherman

            I also made the case that if you refuse to work for an offered wage under a new contract, you have lost your job upon expiration of the old contract. In short you have quit. Even a simpleton understands this. But Anon seem to insist that this constitutes a firing even though there is an absence of all the legal formalities of a firing, not the least of which is a notification of termination. As such Anon places himself in the unfortunate position of having a simpleton look like a tower of intellect in comparison to himself.

          • Anon

            Wow, what a surprise. Thresherman advances another argument, this time about an expiration of a contract, that again is concedes it was NOT a strike and consequently entitles the workers to unemployment benefits. God what a retard, Thresherman can’t even argue for a conclusion without directly undermining it. Thanks again for the laugh, moron, your stupidity is a constant source of bemusement!

        • Thresherman

          God what a retard. 18 year old data from whatever the source is simply not relevant to the current situation, except perhaps as a contrast to current data.

          • Anon

            From the same institute that gave the number in my original source, since Thresherman is apparently too stupid and/or lazy to do any inquiry of his own. “Nationally there were about 9,200 emergency room visits as a result of firework injuries, according to the study. An estimated 1,400 cases a year were eye injuries, with a disproportionate number caused by bottle rockets.”

            Thanks again for the laugh, moron. Your total of lack of substantive thought is extremely amusing.

          • Shadowwalker

            Hey Thresherman, Looks like we got him to squeel. We must have stuck him pretty close to the true….

          • Anon

            Hey, looks like you can’t even reply to the right person, let alone realize that your idiotic position entitles the locked out workers to unemployment beneifts. It’s okay though, conservatives often pretend I was right too after such an embarassing showing.

          • kthiel

            Do you just have faith that “disproportionate number caused by bottle rockets” is correct without looking at the numbers in order to gain perspective of what that means?

            Here are graphs based on data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and links to the reports from 1997 to 2011 are also included.

            This isn’t about whether or not you like bottle rockets. It’s about looking at real data and looking at the data objectively.

          • George

            Ok, first of all you’re a stupid liberal who does’t know what he is talking about and you are probably not even from North Dakota so what does it matter to you? Next the football analogy is true. I play high school football and I have been around bottle rockets my entire life. As far as football goes there are maybe 20 plus injuries every season on my team alone, and every year I spend the 4th of July with my whole family and they all have kids ranging from 3-17 and now I’m 16 and we have never had a single injury pertaining to any firework. Last of all my family is smart unlike you and we had a simple solution to prevent injury to the eyes…….its called glasses you moron.

    • Rob

      I was using the data the bottle rocket opponents were using on the floor.

      They said 9,000 injuries a year, with about 50% coming from bottle rockets.

      But whatever, that’s still a tiny number.

      • Anon

        Glad to see you completely ignored the point about how hollow your analogy to high school football was. How many innocent people need to be needlessly injured before a hack like you feels it justified to do something? Considering there’s little cost involved since there are much safer alternatives still available without the needless risk bottle rockets represent? Probably not until you or someone you love are directly affected, like most conservatives. What a hack!

        • Rob

          Why don’t you look up how many people were injured by bottle rockets last year (if you can’t find it, it’ll be in a post tomorrow) and then come back and tell me what a pressing public safety issue this is.

          • Anon

            What a surprise, Rob refuses to answer how many people need to get unnecessarily and seriously injured before the state can step in (and continues to ignore the fact his analogy to high school football is spurious). What a hack!

          • Dlao

            How many innocent bystanders are seriously injured or killed by the automobile

          • Anon

            If there was one particular type of auto that was causing a disproportionate amount of accidents, yes it should be banned. Of course, totally meritless comparison’s like Rob’s idiotic high school football analogy have never stopped Republicans before!

          • kthiel

            A disproportionate amount of auto accidents are caused by drunk drivers. Why don’t people argue in favor of banning alcohol?

          • Rob

            So, what you’re saying is you don’t even know how many people were hurt by bottle rockets in recent years?

            Thought so.

          • Anon

            I can find it, but if you won’t answer my questions, why should I answer yours? Probably ’cause you can’t answer them since you’re a hack.

            Thought so.

          • Anon

            So that hack’s argument is now that there’s insufficient numbers to justify such a burden? That argument didn’t stop the hack from advocating tougher voter registration and id laws, despite voter fraud almost non existent. What a hack!

  • KJUU

    Perhaps we should ban metal poles, while we’re at it, so people don’t get their tongues stuck to them in winter.

  • devilschild

    I’m waiting for them to confiscate my garden tools. I will admit that more than once I have sliced through the cord on my hedge trimmer.

    • Roy_Bean

      Hedge trimmer?!? No untrained civilian need to use such a dangerous instrument. You could cut your finger off. I hope your mayor orders a mandatory evacuation of your town until this danger is removed. In the mean time you could go to the state owned ski resort and drink a 16oz soda. Be sure to stay off the steep hills, you could break a leg.

  • Drain52

    You VILL be safe!

  • nimrod

    who voted against??

    • Lianne


      Andrist; Axness; Berry; Bowman; Burckhard; Carlisle; Cook; Dever; Dotzenrod;
      Erbele; Flakoll; Heckaman; Kilzer; Krebsbach; Lee, G.; Lee, J.; Luick; Mathern;
      Murphy; Nelson; O’Connell; Oehlke; Robinson; Schneider; Sinner; Sitte; Triplett;
      Wardner; Warner
      ABSENT AND NOT VOTING: Marcellais

      HB 1257 failed.

  • Lianne

    When the House was discussing this bill, Thoreson presented statistics from the Ophthalmology report of safety eye injury trend in the U. S. projectiles such as nails was at the top at 17.9%, followed by blunt objects, fingers, fist and elbows, other, and below other was all fireworks at 0.68%.

    Becker asked that they outlaw power tools for the elderly so he wouldn’t have to make so may midnight runs to ER.

    The Senate got this wrong. If it iw not against the law to shoot off boote rockets, then why on earth is it illegal to purchase them?
    The government is NOT there to protect every individual from every injury. It is NOT possible nor is that the purpose of government.

  • tony_o2

    There are more injuries from sparklers, reloads, firecrackers and roman candles. So why the ban on bottle rockets?

    Reloads have the power to actually kill a person. Bottle rockets generally result in minor burns. So why the ban on bottle rockets?

    • Thresherman

      Tut, tut, tut. You are expecting reason from an emotionally charged argument.