Lee Cataluna: Permits, laws do little to stop jerks
Illegal fireworks are not restricted to Waipahu, Kunia, Ewa and Kapolei. They’re everywhere, echoing off valley walls in East Honolulu, lighting up the night sky in Waimanalo, setting off the dogs in Aiea. Everywhere. Every night.
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In early December a group of friends gathered for a Christmas party in Waipahu. When the first illegal firework boomed over Kunia and the dogs in the neighborhood started bawling, we all kind of laughed and rolled our eyes about Waipahu and illegal fireworks and how it never seems to get better.
Then there were more explosions and the sky lit up like a war zone, and a little neighborhood dog came scurrying into the yard looking for safety. The novelty quickly wore off, and the shared sentiment was, “Wow. Some people are jerks.”
On the way home heading east on H-1, a swarm of illegal street racers zipped in and out between lanes of traffic like they were playing video games and their lives and ours were pretend and thus expendable. It’s disappointing when a town lives up to its worst unfair stereotype.
But the illegal fireworks are not restricted to Waipahu, Kunia, Ewa and Kapolei. They’re everywhere, echoing off the valley walls in East Honolulu, lighting up the night sky in Waimanalo, setting off the dogs in Aiea. Everywhere. Every night.
All this despite new laws that mean we can’t even buy sparklers — sparklers! — at the grocery store.
All this despite a new program that requires a permit to buy firecrackers.
All this despite free fireworks shows where you can sit with your friends and family and watch from a safe distance while professionals set off the aerial pyrotechnics.
All this despite new laws that make selling, possessing or using illegal fireworks punishable by up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
So what are these people setting off ear-splitting illegal explosives in residential neighborhoods thinking?
Sparklers are for babies. Real men like things that sound like war.
Permits are for church groups and grandpas.
Firework shows are so tame. It’s not real until somebody loses a finger.
The cops never catch anyone anyways.
That last one is a refrain spoken by both the scofflaws lighting up the illegal fireworks and all the people peeved by the annual problem that used to be just on New Year’s Eve but now seems to extend for an eight-week period starting in November.
But the problem isn’t with the cops.
Catching the culprits is hard if all law enforcement has to rely on is eyewitness reports from angry people miles away.
So much for Homeland Security and U.S. Customs if explosives are finding their way to Hawaii unnoticed. Maybe if the Feds could kick in some enforcement on the front side, there wouldn’t be so much to explode every year.
And local government needs to be held accountable to not just to pass laws, but to pass laws that work.
But most of all, as in so many of the problems on our little island, from street racing to fireworks to illegal dumping, on and on, it comes down to the will of the people. Not all people, but some people. Some people just love blowing stuff up, scaring the little dogs and little kids and the old folks who live by themselves. Some people don’t care about risks or dangers or setting the entire neighborhood on fire. Some people are just jerks.
Reach Lee Cataluna at 529-4315 or email@example.com.