In theory, the “rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air” of the national anthem is about fighting off trespassing British ships, not a personal call to arms.
Neighbors, firefighters and just about every dog in America would really prefer to hold down the massive explosions this time of year. The Office of the State Fire Marshal has gone so far as to tell us how to distinguish fireworks that are merely unsafe and insane from pyrotechnics that might draw the attention of international arms inspectors.
Here are some of the fire marshal’s hints that your fireworks might be illegal:
• It resembles a roll of coins with a fuse coming out the side.
• It looks homemade, i.e., wrapped in electrical tape.
• It carries a safety warning, such as “For outdoor use only by federally licensed personnel” or “DANGEROUS: If found, deliver to local fire or police department.”
You would think that people could figure out this stuff on their own – figure out, say, that a tennis ball filled with explosives is against the law and also not a smart thing to toy around with. But the explosions splitting the air every Fourth suggest that the extreme hazards of these devices is precisely their appeal.
Here are our own “top signs that your fireworks may be illegal”:
• The guy you buy them from has four missing fingers.
• The “firecracker” is a toner cartridge with a Yemen return address.
• The seller appears to be wearing an FBI wire.
• Your neighbors call the Department of Homeland Security instead of 911.
• The box says you have five seconds after you pull the pin.
• The “bottle rocket” is fired from the shoulder and rated effective against four inches of armor.
• The special Fourth of July police patrol spends all day watching your house with binoculars.
• The fireworks come in square packets attached to a vest.
• The “Native American” behind the counter frequently mutters “Death to America” and carries an AK-47.
Seriously, things that blow up or fly burning through the air are dangerous. They annoy the neighbors even when they don’t set their roofs on fire. If the pyrotechnics are big enough and illegal enough, they can land you in a federal prison.
Hey, it’s a holiday, not a war. Be cool. This Fourth of July, leave the bombs to the armed forces.