Should fireworks be restricted to organised displays in the UK?


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Here in the UK, anyone over the age of 18 can buy fireworks from local supermarkets.

A large number of people enjoy private firework displays with their families in their back gardens responsibly and safely. As someone whose family used to let off fireworks twice a year (once around November 5th, and once on New Years Eve) I can speak from experience how beautiful they are, but also about how dangerous they can be.

Our garden, whilst small, was in a quiet residential area, and backed on to a large field. We had one direct neighbour, and always aimed our fireworks away from their house.

Our garden was not really that big and we stood maybe 5 meters away from the fireworks as they went off: the recommended safe distance for most category 2 fireworks.

One year, my dad and his friend set off a rocket that came down through a pane of glass on my mums greenhouse. The pane of glass smashed, and luckily no one was standing near enough to the greenhouse to be hurt.

Another year, the shell of a rocket came down and hit me directly on the head. My family thought it was hilarious. I thought that it hurt. I was actually further away at the time too, in the narrow passage between our house and the garage, so I was surprised that I was hit at all. I don’t think a lot of people think about how far the debris from a rocket can travel, and if it hurt me, who knows what it would have done had it hit an animal?

The most memorable, and the most dangerous, incident, was when we had a Catherine wheel attached to our fence. If you nailed these in too hard, they did not spin. If you nailed them in too loosely… well they spin so fast that they can come loose. In this case, it flew off into bushes, still blazing. My mum nearly lost a shrub bush that year. We are really lucky that no one was hit, and that we had a bucket of water on hand to douse the flames.

It was a lot of fun though. We had food, sparklers, and me and my sister got to take turns in choosing which firework went up next. Some were spectacular, others were spectacularly disappointing.

Unfortunately, every year, there are incidences of irresponsible use: youths letting off fireworks and throwing them at members of the public, people firing fireworks towards vehicles and business in public places. Children playing with fireworks and getting injured. (Firework Incidents in London) Even after all that, accidents happen. Our displays could have gone very differently if that Catherine wheel had hit someone.

As a result, there are arguments to ban the sale of fireworks to the public:

  • They can be dangerous if they are misused: around 1000 people a year are injured, whether at private displays, or because of anti-social behaviour.

  • They scare animals and wildlife.

  • Fireworks are no longer confined to November the 5th and New Years Eve. They are only sold at certain times of the year, but people save them for birthdays, parties, etc.

There is even a petition to the government about it: Ban the sale of fireworks to the public

The issue was already petitioned and the government responded in April 2016. It was concluded that fireworks can cause distress, but restrictions are in place to minimise this. Most people are responsible, and therefore the public should not be banned from buying fireworks because of some anti-social groups. (Last petition & response)

There are far more signatures for this current petition though: currently 137000+, therefore this petition will get a debate in parliament.

Of course, an all out ban could just leave us with people creating their own fireworks: the information is readily available on the internet. These fireworks would not pass any safety checks and could be even more dangerous.

For now, I will content myself to watch fireworks out of my window, and will follow the progress of the current petition with interest.

What do you think? Should fireworks be sold to the public, or should they be restricted to organised displays?


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