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?