It’s a warm, clear summer night. You and your best friends are enjoying pizza, wine, and good conversation on your patio. Your dog likes to be with, so she’s taking a nap close by. You’ve just lit a fire in your fire pit as the sun sets and the night sky starts to come into view. It’s the perfect summer evening.

Until, KABOOM! The fireworks begin. You startle easily, so your heart starts to race, the pleasant conversation is interrupted, and worst of all, your poor dog is a mess. She tries to bolt, but fortunately her leash was strong enough to prevent her from bolting this time. For the rest of the night she will be a panting, pacing, drooling mess. You take her inside, go back out to extinguish the fire, because you can’t leave her alone in the house now that she’s this upset. 

 Now, repeat this scenario every clear summer night. We’ve got a problem. Fireworks are legal in New Hampshire. I live in a village and shortly after the law changed, three fireworks stores opened up within a five mile radius of my home. At first I didn’t see how they could possibly survive, but here they are years later still in business.  

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy fireworks just as much as the next person – on July 4th and on New Year’s Eve. But when it’s every night of the week – which it is in my neighborhood – it’s gone too far. 

I get it. I live in New Hampshire. Our state motto is “Live Free or Die.” George Carlin said he’d get a little nervous living in a place that mentions death right on the license plate. Maybe he was onto something as we seem to have trouble deciding just whose version of “live free” will prevail.

This carries over into gun legislation as well. An issue where more than just my piece of mind and that of my dog is at stake. As my son and I walked down my street a couple of weeks ago, we watched a local business owner enter his store wearing a gun in a holster.  We looked at each other and mouthed, “Really?” This is a small town. The crime rate is low. 

A couple of days later, I heard the popping of gunfire in close proximity to my house. I live in a somewhat densely populated area. I was worried, so I called the police. They’d been notified by the shooter to alert them he’d be target shooting in his yard. 

“That’s legal?” I asked. “Our houses are pretty close together.”

“Yes,” the police officer assured me. “As long as he’s got the proper backing.”

My poor dog, Sugar, was again a panting, pacing, drooling mess. I was disconcerted, too. This does not seem safe to me. There’s a shooting range down the street. Couldn’t he go there? 

New Hampshire has taken some wacky turns in the last decade, in part since the Free State Project descended upon us with the intent of inflicting their ideals on us.  We now have a so-called “Stand Your Ground Law.” (More on this in Part 2.) Last year, the state tried to strip colleges of the right to ban firearms on campuses. Can you imagine Plymouth State when the Red Sox won the World Series if students had been packing heat?

I know these are complicated issues. I don’t want to take guns away from hunters or target shooters, but I don’t want guns in public places either. In a place like New Hampshire, I’m much more likely to be a victim of gun violence by someone I know than I am to be the victim of a random stranger. 

 Here are my personal gun statistics:

  • Number of my friends, family members, and acquaintances who own guns:   many
  • Number of people I know who’ve used a gun to commit suicide: 5
  • Number of people I know who’ve accidentally shot themselves: 1
  • Number of people I know who’ve accidentally shot & killed their best friend: 1
  • Number of people I know who’ve used a gun to commit first degree murder: 1
  • Number of people I know who’ve used a gun to protect anyone, ever: 0

With the fireworks, if they were legal to use on only designated holidays, Sugar could handle it. On the Fourth, we locked her in our bedroom and drowned out the sound of the explosions with the air conditioner and TV; she prefers PBS shows. We could even dope her up with rock rose or another calming herb. We can’t, however, do this every night. 

Upsetting dogs isn’t the only reason to reconsider our fireworks legislation. Recently a doctor warned a friend of mine against visiting the emergency room on July 4th. She stated,  “There are a lot of people with their hands blown off that day who’ll be in line ahead of you.”  A man one town over, made local news when he suffered a serious eye injury while lighting off a display on July 6th. His display had been the one to upset Sugar the previous evening. 

As for guns, I’m not sure where the “happy medium” is. America suffers from a disproportionate amount of gun violence when compared to countries with a similar standard of living. What is it in our make-up that causes us to be so violent? 

The United States has the highest gun ownership per capita – 88 out of 100. We suffer a murder rate of nearly 10,000 people per year. 60% of these are committed with a gun. We rank 28th in rate of homicide per capita. After countries like Honduras and Zimbabwe.  

Some other interesting gun statistics: 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/jul/22/gun-homicides-ownership-world-list

Recently, I was discussing local issues with my neighbor down the street. He moved here from Virginia several years ago. He said sometimes he feels like our license plates should read “I’ll live free and I don’t care if you die.” 

I like quiet. Guns make me feel less safe. I would like my dog to have some peace of mind. Why are my rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness less important than those of others?

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