AFJ’s response: Fireworks.

A couple of days ago, I became aware that Parliament is launching an enquiry into why, over the last few years, there have been a sudden increase of petitions from the general public asking for the government to create new, stricter laws in regards to fireworks. As the words on the webpage go on to say, the committee are asking for people’s views on the current laws on fireworks, and what needs to be considered when looking at changing the current laws on fireworks.

And on one hand, I’m grateful for someone elevating this issue, not just purely on fireworks, but also for noticing that so many people keep signing petitions, and each time are effectively fobbed off and patronised. The last time I signed one of these petitions, I was disgusted, yet not surprised, to find the response was basically “We don’t need to do anything more, because there are current laws in place that deal with the issues being addressed by this peititon”. So I do think it’s a good thing that someone is asking for our views further. The problem is, these views have been covered by every petition to date. Even in the webpage, they have listed what some of the reasons they’ve found on the petitions they’ve looked at, and still want people to contact them with their reasons, in their own words.

I feel like that’s slowing down the process they could already be making, and it’s putting responsibility on the general public. For example, I did eventually get an email about this, but I originally only even knew about the committee because my friend linked me. How many people would love a say and will miss out because the call for their input hasn’t reached them?

But, I have got the call and I will be sharing my views directly with them, using their contact form on that link. And I will say a better written version of the following:-

I’m afraid of loud noises. I don’t have any specific reason, i’ve just always been that way. And yes, admittedly, somehow during my teenage years I managed to supress my distressed reaction. Then late teens hit and I found I couldn’t suppress it anymore, then the twenties hit and I found every phobia I have is ten times worse than what it was in childhood. And it’s not just fireworks out in the wild, it’s also pyrotechnics at concerts, thunder storms, and even, depending on the tones, loud angry shouting and loud bangs in film.

But let’s focus on fireworks. My fear of the noises they produce means for a week before the 5th of november to the week after, and all through the christmas period to some weeks after January the 1st, I am caused significant distress, because the fireworks are available, and people will just set them off because they can.

I do my best to protect myself from the bangs of the fireworks, and I want to just make it clear here that this specific issues is literally just the loud bangs, if the pretty twinkly ones didn’t end in a loud explosion, I would be fine; But the problem is, they aren’t just silent twinkles, they are loud explosions, and they seem to be louder every year. That means a week of earphones in, loud music that drowns it out, from maybe 6 o’clock in the evening, to 2 o’clock in the morning,  hoping that no random bang from a firework will be set off outside of those hours, and what is set off isn’t so loud I can hear it over my music.

And I am not alone in these fears, and I feel many other people have a much better reason than I do for having these bad reactions. There are people with autism, there are war veterans who are triggered, there are people with non-autistic sensory issues, and then there’s the animals. And they are suffering. We shouldn’t have to live like this!

And that’s just the noise!

Around here in Liverpool, though I imagine it’s the same up and down the country, fireworks seem to go hand in hand with anti-social behaviour. If irresponsible kids aren’t setting off fireworks in the parks and fields, late at night to the early hours of the morning, anytime between September and January the 15th, they’re setting them off in the middle of the road in the direction of cars and buses. Just a couple of years ago, a firework was aimed at the side of the bus, reportedly so it would go in through the open doors, but luckily it went off course. They’re setting them off in random bins, with no care for what might fuel the fire in the bin and cause a spread to the building (which also happened here, right opposite my flat!) and they’re setting them off as pranks, and sometimes, they’re setting them off with the deliberate aim to hurt people. The response to the last petition talked about the laws, but let’s face it, the kids run off before the police get there, and the damage has already been done, and when do the kids ever get caught? If the bangs aren’t coming from somewhere definitive, how can the police even get there in time to catch them?

The current laws are not stopping the irresposible ownership or setting off of these fireworks,  they’re not helping after the fact if they’re not caught red handed, and how can the police catch anyone red handed when police numbers have been cut?

It’s just ignoring the key issue. These things wouldn’t happen if kids couldn’t get ahold of them in them in the first place, and I really believe they wouldn’t be able to get ahold of them, even illegally, if they only went direct from warehouses to organised public displays and pyrotechnic specialists thereof, and controlled via licenses. We understand a lack of access to guns means less gun-related accidents and crimes in the UK, why not with fireworks?

And, with public displays being the only way to celebrate occasions traditionally celebrated with fireworks, we need to go back to only celebrating on celebration nights. Yes I am aware of diwali and chinese new year, and I am including these too. It is not a human right to celebrate with fireworks, and maybe if more people go to displays, the prices of them would drop back down. It is not fair to those of us who can not tolerate the constant barrage of loud noises to put up with it for two weeks at a time. The other year, Bonfire Night seemed to be every night from the weekend before, and the weekend after, and New Years, the week before christmas and on and on and on. Even if you take in to consideration of irresponsible kids just setting them off whenever they like, you still have a lot of responsible adults thinking their right to buy fireworks from any supermarket and newsagents in their area, and their right to set them off in their own back garden, trumps the health and wellbeing of everyone else around them. It doesn’t. I honestly don’t care if the 5th falls on a Tuesday and people are too tired from work, I should not have to spend a fortnight dodging explosions coming from far beyond my home and neither should anyone else, nor animals who can’t understand what exactly is going on.

So, to summarise my feelings on fireworks, the noise levels of those explosions need to be brought down, firework purchasing should be only for license holders, those license holders need to be managers of public displays, and those public displays need to be scaled down to just the day of celebration. Any unlicensed use or ownership should be treated as a criminal offence, stronger than “antisocial behaviour” by the fact it’s literally someone setting off explosives.

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