I write to ask the governor and General Assembly to help with a growing problem in Baltimore County and elsewhere in Maryland, namely the year-round practice of detonating loud firecrackers and launching incendiary fireworks among homes in residential communities. I live north of Parkton. Throughout the year I hear explosions and what sounds like gunfire coming from the grounds of a nearby school and surrounding communities. This occurs at dusk on most summer weekends, and day or night at other times during the year, on weekdays as well as weekends. In effect, the perpetrators repeatedly force their violent entertainment on people living nearby who simply want to relax and enjoy personal and family time at home, without being jolted by sudden explosions outside the window and having their personal living space infused with an unsafe, violent ambience.
This offensive practice has not been taken seriously by the police or the elected officials whom we entrust with protecting the fundamental right of all Maryland residents — including children — to live within safe, peaceful communities. The laws prohibiting most fireworks in Baltimore County, for example, are not actively enforced by the Baltimore County Police. And penalties for violations are so light (a maximum fine of $250) as to be virtually meaningless — a joke — to perpetrators who easily spend hundreds of dollars on a typical bombardment.
To illustrate, at the nearby Phantom Fireworks store in Shrewsbury (open year round), one can purchase products such as the Aerial Arsenal Shell Kit for $399.99, the Beast Unleashed 95-SHOT for $199.99, or the Wickedly Awesome 115-SHOT for $199.99. Unhappy couples can purchase the Grounds For Divorce Assortment for $1,499.99. Those of more limited means can choose the Pyrotechnic Pulverizer 33-SHOT for $129.99, the Untamed Retribution 16-SHOT for $99.99, or the Molotov Cocktail for just $39.99. A TNT Fireworks Outlet in Pennsylvania offers a similar array of malevolent products, including the Dark Revenge and Pyromaniac devices, and the TNT Corruption, the latter "a must buy item for the serious Pyro Party." (Maryland residents can easily circumvent the more restrictive Maryland fireworks laws by making straw purchases at Pennsylvania outlets or online.)
As their labels indicate, these consumer fireworks are intended to shock and intimidate others, especially those who did not ask that loud firecrackers be set off near their home in the first place. There is also the danger that this behavior can lead to other forms of violence. My personal experience has been that some of the perpetrators are emboldened by the lack of law enforcement and quickly become belligerent and defiant when asked to please stop. Worse, youth observe the rowdy violence and disregard for the rights of others, along with the absence of applied sanctions, and then act accordingly at school, on social media and elsewhere.
If someone stands in his backyard and fires a shotgun into the air, this threat will be taken seriously. We should do the same for anyone who stands in the backyard and shoots off explosive and incendiary devices. I ask that the General Assembly immediately pass legislation to ban all consumer fireworks in the state of Maryland, with meaningful penalties (i.e., $1,000 or higher) for their illegal use within residential communities. In banning most consumer fireworks, Delaware, New Jersey and New York have already set an example for others to follow. In addition to this ban, I ask that local and state law enforcement agencies be incentivized to enforce this law for the sake of all Maryland residents, including children, who need to live within safe, peaceful communities.
Individuals who do enjoy fireworks displays can continue to view area displays on the Fourth of July and New Year's holidays that are professionally managed in open public spaces, away from residential communities. If need be, extreme fireworks enthusiasts can still listen to loud firecrackers on fireworks websites year round, without forcing their entertainment on entire communities.
Thank you, lawmakers, for your consideration of my request for immediate legislative and executive action to correct this growing problem in Maryland.
Fred Medinger is a Baltimore County resident. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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