Does Lighting Fireworks Constitute Free Speech?

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

180px-San_Diego_FireworksWith the coming this week of this year’s Independence Day, I thought we would revisit an article from 2016 and pose a question to you. Does the use of fireworks constitute protected free speech?

A tradition spanning multiple generations in the United States is that a large portion of our society celebrates and shows tribute to the United States through the lighting and observance of fireworks. Yet numerous municipalities and counties impose sweeping and total bans of fireworks. Some statutes regulate the type of firework allowable, such as those having a ferocity that safety requires certified technicians. Others ban benign devices such as snakes and small fountains.

But does a complete ban on fireworks regardless of size constitute an infringement on the first amendment rights of citizens?

Municipalities having such total bans often provide or at least facilitate public exhibitions of professional fireworks displays. An esoteric argument can be made that such locations may constitute an exclusive free-speech zone permitted by the state whereas the private celebrations and expressions on private property by individuals are not permitted.

The usual argument for fireworks prohibition is that fires result from their usage and the state has an interest in preventing accidents. But can the state argue that the danger is so inherent that all fireworks must be prohibited; thus removing this free speech right?

By Darren Smith

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

56 thoughts on “Does Lighting Fireworks Constitute Free Speech?”

  1. I grew up in the South, and will always associate sparklers with being a kid on 4th of July. However, I live in CA, the perpetual drought state. It is extremely hard to put a fire out when it gets into the hills. The firefighters have to climb up steep hillsides. Alien grasses choke the native chaparral like tinder. The fires can rage for days or weeks, polluting the air every spring, summer, and fall. Slopes get denuded. We all know that Fire Season is followed by Mudslide Season.

    Every year, we have one manmade fire after another. Arsonists, car accidents, meth labs, marijuana oil production, downed power lines, homeless encampments cooking over a fire in the dry brush (with the full consent of city leaders), trucks parked off road…there are so many reasons the fires fill the air with soot every year down here, and none of them involve the sole natural cause, dry lightening.

    Evacuating a ranch is horrid. You’ve got to evacuate kids, horses, dogs, cats, chickens, and of course there are the ranches with goats and sheep and pigs who have never, ever trailered before and it’s the middle of the night. Anyone with a trailer joins the volunteer trailer brigade, and spends all night and hundreds of dollars in gas helping strangers get out before everyone dies. I’ve known volunteers who had to leave horses behind at properties when they absolutely would not load or the stalls were stupidly padlocked. And they always have a truck full of halters because there are never enough halters at the locations. I know of someone who had to turn his horses loose because when he learned of the fire, it was upon him. They ran up a hill and were surrounded by fire, which swept over them. A trainer got terribly burned in one of the recent fires. Years ago, a little girl who lived near my barn panicked at a close fire, threw open her gate, and stampeded her horses loose into the street. They bottlenecked and smashed into the gate, and a huge post impaled her favorite horse. You could put half of your entire arm in the gaping wound to stop the bleeding.

    Fires in CA mean death, destruction, loss of pets, livestock, wildlife, and native vegetation including thousand year old oak trees, loss of homes and precious mementos, and makes the air so bad you wonder why you bother with any clean air efforts. I hate wildfires.

    Therefore, I don’t support open flames outside without a grill cover, cooking out in the brush, or fireworks. In some parts of SoCal, the “safe” fireworks are sold in areas that are not near the hillsides, and in others, they are all banned. Regardless, all month long you can see fireworks going off all night along the freeway, exploding really, really close to rooftops. The fire department is really busy in June and July.

    I also hate when people fire their guns off straight up into the air to celebrate 4th of July or Cinco De Mayo. There are cultures around the world who still like to party with shots in the air. What goes up must come down.

    This falls into one person’s right does not supersede his neighbor’s right to live.

    The only fireworks I would want in CA would have to be impossible to start a fire.

    1. I forgot to add that so many dogs go howling mad the entire month leading up to Fourth of July. People set off fireworks for 30 days or more.

      Anxiety to explosions is common in dogs. Many of my friends dogs, who live in affected areas, have their dogs live in a constant state of panic due to all the loud fireworks.

      1. Karen S – depending on the dog we have had, we have gotten tranquilizers for the dog(s) for the fireworks.

  2. Fireworks are a takeoff of Rockets Red Glare, bombs bursting in air and are in no way a sacrosanct especially in a country which has refused ideas such as sacrosanct

    They are explosives or incendiaries. If the public wants to give up the second amendment where the Hell do they get off bitching about fireworks?

    Answer is they shouldn’t

    Any of these cities that declared sanctuary status or vote anti second amendment show their hypocrisy and demonstrate their false beliefs

  3. fireworks are a nuisance and dangerous and subject to proper governmental licensing and restrictions, end of story.

    1. Mr Kurtz – every child should have the experience of having a firecracker go off accidentally while they are holding it. It is part of growing up. 😉 You are probably one of those people who doesn’t think you should run with scissors.

      1. i have had the experience and an uncle who lost a finger. we know plenty about it here in flyover. it drives the dogs nuts. i am one of those people who keeps the business end downrange and the finger out of the trigger guard until the right moment, that’s all. most people are fools.

        1. Mr Kurtz – there is nothing like having your fingers numb for a couple of days and trying to hide it from your folks to make a man of you. 😉

        2. Mr. Kurtz,…
          – My dog is already nuts, so the fireworks don’t really cause any additional problems for him.

  4. This is a very topical discussion. I would subject it to the “Burning A Flag” standard. Sure it is an expression, but you can’t do if a Burn Ban is on.

    I like fireworks, although some of these arsenal bombs are way too loud.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

    1. Some might find this interesting, as well:

      https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/06/29/anthony-kennedy-and-the-court-of-lost-resort/

      “(An interesting aside. Trump allies aggressively lobbied Kennedy for the last few months to retire this summer so Trump could roll out a new nominee before the midterms. Kennedy listened and apparently bought their assurances that a Trump court would preserve his key rulings. Perhaps he was sold because of a little known connection between the Trump and Kennedy families. For 12 years Trump’s private banker at the troubled Deutsche Bank was Justin Kennedy, son of Anthony. Under the younger Kennedy’s supervision, Deutsche Bank loaned Trump more than $1 billion, at a time when American banks wouldn’t touch his already debt-soaked company. )”

      1. anonymous – Trump has his label on 525 companies. 5 have debt problems which are way below the national average. BTW, the US government is far more “debt soaked” then Trump and the Chinese own a great deal of our debt. Hmmmm.

        1. Paul C. Schulte,
          In numerous articles, Trump is reported to have borrowed from Goldman Sachs and The Bank of China.
          E.G., “Trump’s companies $650 million in debt” -CBS NEWS, Aug. 20, 2016
          The financial forms Trump was required to fill out are not specific enough to reveal details.
          From the reporting, those two lenders appear to be a significant source of credit for Trump.
          Deutsche Bank and “Russia” are two more names that constantly surface as lenders to Trump; usually in articles, or comments here, that do not even mention Goldman Sachs or The Bank of China.
          Outside of Trump’s family, business associates/ managers, and probably Mueller’s team, I don’t think anyone really knows the amount Trump owes, and the percentages of debt to each company.
          I have seen Deutsche Bank and “Russia” named as lenders by folks on this blog dozens of times….maybe over 100 times.
          Those lenders are always, or almost always, mentioned to the exclusion of Goldman Sachs and The Bank of China.
          I doubt if anyone in the public really knows very much specific info about Trump’s debt.

      2. Diane

        Do you honestly think Counterpunch has confidential information about the business affairs of either the Trump Organization or Deutchebank?

        As for the ‘debt soaked company’, he applied for reorganization 4x on the same set of Atlantic City properties. The Trump Organization wasn’t having problems. It was an equity investor in the company holding those problem assets (which it eventually sold).

          1. Trump’s Spastic Dancer is flattering Diane for the sake of disparaging anonymous–again. I don’t mind, if you don’t mind. Otherwise, I’ll have to take my gloves off–again.

            1. L4D enables David Benson – even Mikey Mike Mike can take you with both hands tied behind his back. No one is panicked by your threat.

        1. I honestly think that Counterpunch and others can report or comment “as if they had” confidential/inside information.😉😏
          Getting inside of the “nuts and bolts” of a privately held company is far more difficult than evaluating a publicly held company ( if the public companies’ books are on the up and up).

  5. Trump told his toady Bartiromo in today’s interview that his parents were born in the EU.

    The EU was founded in the 1990s. His father was born in the Bronx.

    That’s a nice giant step toward to the 25th.

    1. “Stand up Chuck, let ‘em see you.”

      – Joe Biden to paraplegic Missouri state senator Chuck Graham.

        1. The funniest thing about Trump supporters is they can’t bear to look directly at how psychologically damaged, morally corrupt, and intellectually illiterate he is. So they dredge up completely unrelated things, mistakenly thinking that somehow these will counter the fact that he is psychologically damaged, morally corrupt, and intellectually illiterate.

    2. “Trump told his toady Bartiromo in today’s interview that his parents were born in the EU.

      “The EU was founded in the 1990s. His father was born in the Bronx.” -screw’em

      “A quest for truth with investigative journalist, Seymour M. Hersh”

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