Durham News: Opinion

Dale Gunter: Snap, crack and ... STOP! A fireworks primer


July is almost here and with it comes fun and fireworks ... and with fireworks comes a catch, that pesky little thing that can ruins everybody’s fun – the LAW!

Now, all things fun are generally dangerous and sometimes even illegal, including but not limited to: running with a lollipop in your mouth, swimming after eating, boiling water in a paper cup, licking a 9 volt battery and spending an hour driving around town ...while blindfolded.

So let's talk about fireworks! Everybody loves them. Women love them because of the pretty colors, men love them because, well ... they get to blow stuff up. A lot of people have questions on what’s legal and what’s not, so let’s set the record straight.

I suppose the easiest way to tell the legal vs. illegal fireworks apart is to shoot ’em off and see if the police come. But do we really want the police to come and spoil our party with all those silly little rules? Of course not. Let me give you the skinny on fireworks and save you a visit from “The Man.”

The basics are ... if it explodes, goes boom or bang, shoots up in the air, flies, leaves the ground in any manner, or spins ... it’s illegal. Yup … spinning tires and spinning fireworks, both illegal. The spin cycle on the washing machine ... totally legal, unless you’re sitting in that washing machine spinning around with a firecracker in your hand.

What does this mean to you? Well it means you’ll likely break your washing machine and probably burn your house down in the process.

Oh, and it also means that all of those fireworks that you went and got at South of the Border are a big fat “Illegal.”

Firecrackers, Roman Candles, Jumping Jacks, Blooming Flowers, Black Cats and Bottle Rockets ... not to mention mortars that shoot to Mars are illegal to use, sell or possess in North Carolina.

Whew! So what’s legal then you ask?

Only the funnest stuff on the entire planet! Smoke bombs, glow worms, party poppers, string poppers, snap n caps, drop ‘n’ pops, sparkling fountains and the old faithful ever present ... sparklers. America was raised on Sparklers! A thin sharp piece of wire burning at 2,000 degrees that gets hot enough to cut a ’57 Chevy in half and the No. 1 cause of injuries related to fireworks in America … TOTALLY LEGAL!

Yeah, well OK, maybe we don’t have the funnest (legal term) fireworks laws on the books, but it is what it is ... after all, if we were allowed spinning fireworks, it could throw the earth off of its rotation axis and we’d all go spinning off into space ... hence the spinning ban ... and that’s a scientific fact.

So, remember, don’t run with scissors, don’t eat honey straight from a hive of angry bees and never make ugly faces or your face will freeze that way. Try to keep it safe, legal and above all, have fun. There are no exceptions for illegal fireworks for July 4 or just because you “know a guy.”

So that’s the skinny on fireworks ... the really fun stuff shot off at the ball parks and big events is entrusted to a certified expert that has a permit and took a class so he really knows his way around a match. The neighborhood light displays of bottle rockets, fire crackers and big booming exploding mortars that shoot to Mars are entrusted to ... the residents of South Carolina.

Dale Gunter is a sergeant in the Durham Police Department.