If it’s forbidden fruit you’re looking for, forget the Garden of Eden. The Garden State offers something so much better. Something that can provide a spark, light up your life, and keep your flame burning bright: It’s a sparkler. And they’re illegal—statewide. So if it’s fun you’re looking for this Fourth of July, be careful of lighting those nefarious instruments of destruction. Unlike merely incurring original sin, possession of sparklers is far worse and results in fines and a possible trip to Jersey prison.
The real sin, however, isn’t even that sparklers are banned, but the effort put into enforcing that law. New Jersey is apparently the safest state in the Union because, given the sizable state police resources used to combat fireworks, it must be free of murders, rapes, robberies and drugs.
In case you’re wondering, fireworks always rank right up there as one of the most pressing issues, along with curbing your dog and jaywalking. Clearly, controlling the possession and transportation of such items of mass destruction is paramount in the Garden State.
The threat of New Jerseyans enjoying themselves over the Fourth of July holiday is so great, and so irksome to government, that undercover storm troopers—sorry, meant “state” troopers—are being sent across enemy lines (the Jersey-Pennsylvania border) to stake out the parking lots of fireworks stores. There, they lie in wait for consumers with Jersey tags. After stealthily tracking those individuals on their return trip, they radio ahead to marked units on the down side of the bridge who nail the lawbreakers. In doing so, they perpetuate the public’s feeling that too many police are being used as revenue collectors.
In all fairness, though, it’s not like New Jersey has the most dangerous city in America to worry about.
Oh, wait. Camden.
Which can only mean that Camden is no longer dangerous, and that its residents are safe walking down the street.
But since all one needs to do is read the headlines to know Camden is dreadful as ever, can it really be that New Jersey’s leaders willingly place more emphasis on controlling sparklers than they do on preventing people from getting shot?
And it’s not just New Jersey citizens who are being targeted. A driver from Connecticut bought fireworks in Pennsylvania, made several stops after leaving the store, and still got nailed when he crossed into Jersey. New Jersey undercover police are stooping to such a level of deception that they are tracking fellow Americans in another state, potentially for hours on end, after buying fireworks legally. All of this surveillance, mind you, on just the possibility that said person might cross into New Jersey.
New Jersey politicians and bureaucrats even had the audacity to complain to Pennsylvania officials about the “legal loophole” of allowing Jersey residents to buy fireworks in Pennsylvania since they are illegal in New Jersey.
Loophole? It’s not a loophole. It’s freedom, clearly a principle that exists in small quantities in the Garden State. What right does an official in New Jersey have to tell its citizens that they cannot engage in a legal activity in another state? Where does the government’s power grab end?
And let’s be perfectly honest. The regulations banning fireworks in New Jersey do not stem from preventing forest fires. Instead, they are all about a paternalistic notion that government, not the people, knows best. Even though the vast majority of revelers use fireworks with care and caution, and accidents are rare, the New Jersey government doesn’t believe that is enough. Playing right into America’s culture of fear, NJ thinks nanny-state intervention will eliminate the “risk of getting hurt.”
What’s next? Banning skateboards? How about making the minimum driving age 25? Or mandating that coffee can only be served at a lukewarm 75 degrees to prevent burns?
The irony of these Gestapo-like tactics is that they illustrate the beauty of America: No one has to live in New Jersey. If a state’s power becomes too onerous, one can move without asking permission and without retribution. And it’s precisely why the “Red-Blue” divide in this country is becoming wider than ever. Blue states continue to over-regulate and over-tax, while red states offer a freer environment in which to work and live. The statistics don’t lie—over the past several decades, the states with booming populations, the highest job creation, and the most robust economies are red. And that is why their electoral clout is growing, while blue states are singing the blues as their national relevance diminishes.
The fact that we have such a choice is uniquely American.
So be glad you don’t live in the People’s Republic of New Jersey. But if you do, have a great time ringing in the freedom of the Fourth by firing up your flashlights. Until they get banned too.
Happy Independence Day!