The Nanny State Squelches Fireworks Rights

When I was growing up in South Dakota, fireworks were everywhere during the summer. Boys spent much of June and July blowing things up. All kinds of fireworks were legal, and the firecrackers of the time–Zebras were our favorites–contained significantly more gunpowder than today’s watered-down versions. Still more powerful firecrackers were illegal but widely available–cherry bombs, silver salutes, and M80s.

Maybe it was a miracle that all of the members of my graduating high school class had ten fingers. Or maybe experience with relatively powerful explosives, combined with common sense, made us competent to handle them.

Although South Dakota and Minnesota are neighboring states, they are poles apart when it comes to nannyism. Citizens of South Dakota are competent and self-reliant, while Minnesotans are so inept as to be always in danger of harming themselves. That is what their respective state governments believe, anyway. Fireworks illustrate the point. Today there is even more fireworks freedom in South Dakota than when I lived there. For little more than $100, a resident of my home town can–shopping in a fireworks warehouse nearly the size of a basketball arena–buy a reloadable mortar and enough shells to put on the same sort of display that you normally associate with a small city’s 4th of July extravaganza.

Meanwhile, how about Minnesota? For many years, Minnesota didn’t even allow sparklers or those pathetic snakes that turn to ash when you light them on your sidewalk. That changed a few years ago; now we can buy sparklers and fountains, but still nothing that actually explodes. When the Republicans took control of both houses of Minnesota’s legislature in 2010, we thought that might change. And, sure enough, legislation passed that would legalize the sale of “skyrockets, firecrackers and multiple-tube devices.” Still lame by South Dakota standards, but far too bold for our Democratic Governor, Mark Dayton, who promptly vetoed the bill:

In his letter on the fireworks bill, Dayton noted that after Minnesota legalized ground-based fireworks such as sparklers and small cones in 2002, injuries have spiked, particularly among young people. Property damage statistics, he said, “showed a similar trend.”

Those are statistics one would like to see: personal injury and property damage caused by sparklers! Are we men or are we mice? Here in Minnesota, that isn’t a close question. We are mice.

I am writing this a few minutes after returning from a shooting range, which puts the political debate over firecrackers and sparklers in an odd light. I went shooting today with my son, Ed Morrissey and his son, and Mitch Berg. We had five firearms among us–four semiautomatics and a revolver, a .22, a couple of 9 millimeters and a .38.

The five of us had a lot of fun. We fired off hundreds of rounds and, I think it is fair to say, were never in serious danger. But when I got home and read the news story about Governor Dayton vetoing the legalization of firecrackers, it made me wonder: if the nanny state thinks firecrackers are far too dangerous for its utterly incompetent citizens, then what must the nanny state make of Glocks, Rugers, Sig Sauers and Smith and Wessons? Is there any possible way the nanny state would allow its citizens to possess such weapons, if it had the option of banning them, as it bans firecrackers and, until recently, sparklers?

Certainly not. It is reasonable to conclude that in many states, probably most, liberal nannies would ban firearms, just as they do firecrackers, if only they could. Which is another way of saying that the Second Amendment is a critical barrier against nanny statism, a fact I never really appreciated until the day, not long ago, when, just for fun, I bought a gun.

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