By editorial board • 

Personal fireworks aren’t worth the trauma inflicted

Americans annually celebrate their freedom by setting off explosions that traumatize many of the veterans who fought for that freedom.

Does that make any sense?

Celebrating America is a pretense many people use so they can feel good about lighting things that spark and go boom.

As a result, people who should look forward to an Independence Day celebration of the nation they served are instead returned emotionally to a time when the blasts they experienced were the opposite of festive.

Household pets are also traumatized by fireworks, as are livestock and wildlife caught in the vicinity. So are people with physical conditions leaving them sensitive to sudden loud noises.

But as soon as fireworks stands open in supermarket parking lots, we are besieged by a nightly barrage of explosions. Are momentary thrills really worth the anguish these blasts inflict?

Capt. Andrew Klein of Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, himself a veteran, would say no.

“Unexpected and random loud noises can cause combat veterans to become anxious or initiate a fight-or-flight response,” he said. “A planned community fireworks display is much more tolerable, because it is predictable and is a patriotic-themed celebration of our country.”

The sensitivity of others aside, fireworks result in more than 7,000 personal injuries annually, according to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission.

A 2016 tabulation showed young adults in the 20 to 24 age range sustained the highest estimated rate of fireworks injuries requiring emergency room treatment at 4.9 per 100,000, the agency reports. Children under 5 ranked next at 4.4 per 100,000.

Often, these young people face trading a momentary sensation for a lifetime of disability.

Out of respect for people’s inalienable right to engage in ill-advised activities, we stop short of advocating a wholesale ban on the sale of personal fireworks. It may be a good idea, but there are just too many forces aligned against it.

Instead, we settle for urging people to confine their bad choices to themselves. Abstain from personal fireworks unless there’s a way to guarantee neighboring people and animals won’t be traumatized.

Recognizing such guarantees are practically impossible, the best recourse is to abstain from personal fireworks entirely.

There’s a bright side. It would give people time to do something else on the Fourth of July and the days surrounding it — actually celebrating America, for example.


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