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Editorial: State should ban some types of fireworks

Fourth of July fireworks are a tradition in New Hampshire – and so too, it seems, are injuries related to the use of reloadable mortar fireworks.

With two incidents in the past three years, the town of Pelham has become the center of debate in the state over whether such fireworks – which are similar to those used in professional fireworks displays – should be outlawed.

In 2012, reloadable mortars were blamed in an accident that injured 13 people in town, and on Friday, a 24-year-old man suffered a severe hand injury while attempting to load a shell into a launching tube.

With the latest accident, State Fire Marshal William Degnan has seen enough. So have we.

While all fireworks are dangerous when used improperly or carelessly, the very nature of reloadable shells increases the possibility of severe injury. Common sense says that to repeatedly place and ignite shells in a cardboard tube invites risk. To add to the difficulty level, Degnan said, the tubes must be set up on a solid, firm surface and the shells loaded properly or the tube itself could explode.

Arguments against any kind of fireworks ban usually rely on false analogy, for instance claiming that more people are injured playing sports than handling fireworks, which means banning sports, while obviously ludicrous, has more validity than banning fireworks. Pushing such fallacies aside, banning a kind of firework that obviously puts users at greater risk makes the same kind of sense as requiring football players to wear a helmet. It’s about taking steps to reduce the potential for injury, not infringing on freedom or tradition.

While we agree with Degnan when it comes to banning reloadable mortars, we must part ways with him on a full fireworks ban.

As state fire marshal, it’s no surprise that Degnan would like to get rid of a form of celebration that causes more than 17,000 fires per year in the United States, according to the National Fire Protection Association, but prohibition and the war on drugs have already provided the data needed to assess the probability of such a ban achieving the desired results.

Instead, Degnan should focus on pushing lawmakers to draft legislation banning reloadable mortar fireworks. He certainly has solid evidence to sway them to action.

Legacy Comments9

I would like to propose that we pass immediate legislation that effective immediately, all citizens will wrap themselves in bubble wrap and stop moving during non work hours. We ought not pass laws that prevent "stupid". I am NOT a fireworks fan but the emotionally over sensitive crowd wants to outlaw everything based on isolated incidents. What is next, hard candy outlawed because someone chokes on it. Self responsibility is a thing of the past, now we need progressive nannies to tell us how to live and act. How about if you are stupid, you accept the consequences. No one want so see another person die but we are NOT our brothers keepers and we ought not give up rights because some folks around us can't use their noggins!

First of all, I don't believe the whole story has come out yet. If you recall at the first Pelham tragic incident, there were 344 shells in an open box. Then someone lit some type of spinner on the top of the approximate 3" wide railing, thus of course the spinner started to spin, then fell of the railing and took flight into the box of 344 shells. , From the testimony given up in Concord many burn injuries occurred but there was no mention of the type of injury this recent fellow sustained. I suspect that this fellow may have been misusing the product, maybe he was shooting the shells while holding the mortar tube. this would explain the injuries to his hand or was this fellow misusing this product by not using the mortar tube and attempting to lob the shell in the air after lighting it, or maybe it was an illegal device that blew up in his hand. Even if a shell is inserted upside down in the tube and then lit, you would have 5 to 7 seconds to back away from the firework. Given that amount of time, how would the hand sustain such a major injury and no other part of the body. The agenda of the State Fire marshal and the Pelham Fire chief is to ban reloads. I hope that has no influence on the investigation. If reloads were banned in NH they still could be purchased only a hop, skip and jump across the Maine border. Reloads have been used in NH before the NH stores were allowed to sell them and they will still be used if the nanny staters get their way.

Seven dead (including 3 children) from fireworks house fire in Lowell last night. Ban the GD things.

A gentleman called into the Exchange today from Moultonborough and said he was a Vietnam Vet and these mortar fire works have a very bad effect on him and other service people suffering from PSD. It is hard on the domestic animals also. I doubt that many of the men who love these fire works ever actually served or served in a war zone. Just another example of the rights of one group trampling over the rights of another group usually the majority.

I can respect the Concord Monitor's goal of safety and reducing injuries. It is certainly more moderate than Marshal Degnan's position. But we can not be banning safe items because people choose to use them incorrectly. Especially when the accidents cited in the editorial were caused by users making decisions that defy all logic and common sense. In the first incident, the user made a pile of 300+ unwrapped shells and then distributed aerial spinners to party goers near the shells. This would be akin to dumping gasoline from a gas can (safe) into a bucket (not safe), and then smoking a cigarette while you admire the bucket (foolhardy). In the other incident, the user loaded the tube upside down (difficult to do since the fuse is at the top of the shell), and lit it in his hand. To me this is like strapping a football helmet to your knee before the big game. It was obviously wrong, and likely to result in injury. Other users should not be deprived of our enjoyment because these individuals chose to be so careless. I think the editorial board should try some of these fireworks for themselves, and see what it is all about.

I really think the Monitor Editorial Board should try these....but first, they should throw all the directions and cautions away. I'd buy a ticket to see that!

On the surface the ban on re-loadable mortar type fireworks makes sense. However it is a more deep seated problem. According to several studies 40% of fireworks injuries are to males 25 - 44 years of age. So taking that into consideration it's safe to say that males 25-44, or at least 40%, are careless and or stupid. You can't legislate against stupid. Given some of the stunts my friends and I pulled during and prior to this age, it's amazing that as many males actually survive. But seriously, the problem is more about using common sense than needing legislative action. Quite frankly if people in general exercised more common sense the need for laws and regulations could be lessened. By relying on laws and bans, we further erode common sense and responsibility as life directives.

Well said.

The first incident in Pelham happened because they had multiple boxes of open fireworks all over the area. Sparks landed in one of the boxes and caused a chain reaction accident. The fireworks never should have been at the porch with everyone else so it was an accident waiting to happen. In the second incident the user failed to follow directions and put the shell in upside down so it went no place and blew in place. Nothing but nothing trumps safety. That means if you don't know how to do it safely then don't do it.

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