In the spirit of the fourth of July, I’m going to take some time to draw attention to a local (Omaha, NE) matter stemming from the holiday.

“The fireworks being sold were over three times the legal size,” Heine said. “We are investigating whether the employee was acting on his own or with the knowledge of the stand’s owner.”

Heine said the fireworks stand was authorized to sell Class C fireworks, which are labeled with the number 1.4.

However, the fireworks in question were more like Class B fireworks, which are used for large shows and have a 1.3 label.

“Part of the problem is that it appears the fireworks were repackaged with a 1.4 label to look as if they were legal consumer fireworks,” Heine said. “These illegal fireworks could have done some terrible damage.”

The illegal fireworks were sold “under the table,” Heine said. The employee would ask people if they were looking for something more powerful.

Fireworks are, of course, illegal in a very, very confusing way in Nebraska. Each city has it’s own ordinances, which have to comply with a myriad of restrictive county laws and also state laws. I’m not exactly sure how it all works; but the gist of it is that most places you go in Nebraska only sell weak fireworks.

Now, as illustrated by the great Joe Dirt at the link above, there is obviously great consumer demand for more powerful fireworks. Unfortunately, this bust is being interpreted as a reason to “step up enforcement”. Why? Because the status quo has inertia, no matter how misguided the framework may be.

The current laws in Nebraska (and Iowa) incentivize people to do one of two things. Either people travel to a surrounding state with no ban on firework sales, or they sell them anyway, packaged as legal fireworks. The former requires a lot of man-hours and energy to enforce (not to mention is highly inefficient in the economic, and literal sense), and the latter makes a dangerous product even more dangerous.

What would be an relatively cheap, effective, efficient, and safety-enhancing way of remedying this situation? How about a legal market?

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