Boom Goes The Dynamite

     What good is a law if it is ignored by citizens, and especially the police?
     That question gets begged every year at this time in Florida, when roadside tents sprout up from Key West to Pensacola to sell explosives to anyone who wants them, regardless of what the state law actually permits. Legislative and executive hypocrisy is the norm when it comes to government, but it’s usually not so insulting.
      Florida law allows the use of fireworks for very specific reasons. You can use fireworks legally if you work for a railroad or other transportation agency, for signaling purposes. You can use fireworks in mining operations. And you can use fireworks to scare birds away from fields and fish hatcheries. That’s it. Oh, and it’s officially illegal (Florida Statute 791.02) to sell fireworks “at retail.”
     Yet right now on Wednesday July 2 I can drive to any number of tents on the side of the road in Tampa and buy mini-sticks of dynamite, so long as I sign a waiver stating I intend to use the fireworks pursuant to the limitations spelled out above. How’s that work?
     What’s even more confusing is that police departments in the state act as if it would be a gross inconvenience to ask officers to patrol the streets and make sure nobody is shooting off fireworks illegally.
      Take that to its logical extreme. That’s akin to an officer driving down a residential street and seeing somebody covered with blood walking away from a dead body in a yard. Since the officer didn’t actually see a crime being committed what reason does he have to stop and investigate?
      Yet these same officers will drive down residential streets in the coming days and nights, cruising through drifting clouds of gunpowder while the city sounds like a French village following the Normandy invasion, and not do a thing. They won’t even get out of their cars.
      Name me one other crime, and that’s what shooting off fireworks outside of one of the permitted uses is, where officers do not rely on circumstantial evidence to enforce the law. If you get pulled over in a car, roll your window down and clouds of marijuana smoke come rolling out of your interior, you’re going to jail even if the officer didn’t actually see you smoke anything. Yet you can stand there while a deputy rolls by, shrouded in smoke with shredded paper at your feet, and he can’t write a ticket because he didn’t actually see you light a fuse. Okay.
      And please spare me the patriotism angle. Just because you buy two gross of M-80s and a dozen Roman Candles for the Fourth of July doesn’t make you a patriot. If there were as many enthusiastic patriots as there would appear to be on the Fourth of July the Bush Administration would be fending off Congressional investigations and outraged citizens at every turn, over any number of transgressions, the most recent being the embarrassing politicization of the Department of Justice.
      Hypocrisy. As American as baseball, apple pie and the Fourth of July.

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