DEAR ABBY: I would like to pose a question to your readers who are parents: Would you hand your child a lighted match? The idea is absurd. Yet each Independence Day, thousands of parents don't give a second thought to giving their children sparklers -- lighted sticks that can burn at a temperature up to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Last year, more than 8,000 people in the United States (most of them children) received treatment at an emergency room for injuries related to fireworks. Keep in mind this figure does not include injuries treated by private physicians or those not treated at all. I would like to remind your readers of all ages that fireworks (sparklers included) are not toys. Please leave fireworks to the professionals.
The number of people who sustain serious burns, loss of eyesight or other disfiguring trauma as a result of fireworks is evidence that there is no safe way for amateurs to use them.
July Fourth and fireworks are practically synonymous. I am not suggesting that fireworks be banned from the celebration; however, the associated risks must be recognized -- and reduced. Professional pyrotechnicians are trained to adhere to state-of-the-art codes for public fireworks displays. The only "safe" way to enjoy fireworks this July is at one of these public displays -- from a distance. -- GEORGE D. MILLER, PRESIDENT, NFPA NATIONAL FIRE PROTECTION ASSOCIATION
DEAR GEORGE: How right you are! While we are on the subject of injuries sustained on July Fourth and other holidays, let's not forget the injuries and deaths caused by another kind of "fireworks" -- bullets fired into the air by exuberant celebrants.
Although guns played a part in winning our independence, the deadly toll exacted by gunmen trying to enhance their celebration is unconscionable and illegal. Readers, please report this crime to the police. Too many lives have been lost as a result of gun accidents. This year, let's not add to the numbers as we celebrate our nation's hard-won freedom.