Wednesday, August 27, 2003
The Bingen City Council is considering banning virtually all fireworks displays within the city limits, even on private property. If approved, the ordinance would be in effect beginning in 2005.
There appears to be a split on the council over this idea. During a discussion on the proposal on Aug. 5, when four council members were present, two supported a complete ban on fireworks, with the exception of sparklers. Two others thought that was much too restrictive.
A limited approach might be appropriate, but a total ban on using fireworks is unnecessary -- and in a way, possibly un-American. After all, if someone chooses to set off legal fireworks in his or her own driveway on July 4, what right would the local City Council have to say: "You can't do that."
If youngsters want to see their dad set off some colorful fireworks in the back yard, that should not be made illegal.
If grandma and grandpa want to enjoy the comfort and security of their own yard or driveway while they watch their kids or grandkids set off fireworks, they certainly ought to be able to do so. They should not have to drive to Bingen Point or elsewhere to witness the action and share in the fun.
Equally heavy-handed would be some of the proposed penalties for those who are caught blowing off fireworks in Bingen if this ordinance were to gain approval. The first draft of the ordinance called for making the "crime" of setting off fireworks within the city limits of Bingen a misdemeanor. That would mean the person charged would need to go before a judge for snetencing.
The council later came to a consensus that confiscation of the fireworks and a fine would be more reasonable. That's nice, but nevertheless, the word "harsh" comes to mind when looking at this proposed ban.
We can see the reasoning behind halting the use of some fireworks in public places within the city limits. That probably makes some sense, especially with dry and fire-prone conditions. And by all means, banning fireworks that are not legal in the state of Washington is necessary. But a full ban on all fireworks within the city of Bingen? That would be unnecessary and unwise.
The council ought to resist the temptation to eliminate fireworks displays. Setting off fireworks is a traditional way for Americans to celebrate our nation's Independence Day, and it ought to be left alone.