Why? Because (as the Daily News also noted a few weeks ago) Pennsylvania's fireworks laws are among the most restrictive in the U.S. And if I'd told the truth, I would've been limited to a small-side room display of sparklers, banned from reliving the Roman candles, bottle rockets and firecrackers of my youth.
Residents of the Keystone State aren't permitted to buy or set off most consumer fireworks - essentially anything that ascends into the air. Sparklers are OK, but most smoke bombs are off limits.
BUT CUSTOMERS who can prove they're from somewhere other than Pennsylvania can buy whatever they want.
I learned that the hard way. Last year, when I admitted my Pennsylvania residency at another Poconos stand, I was banished to a porch full of sparklers and noisemakers, but no bombs bursting in air.
What's it all mean? Under current state law, Delawareans, Jersyans and New Yorkers (like me) can drive across the border, build up a stockpile and tote it back home. Leaving poor, primitive Pennsylvanians in the dust.
Such heavy-handed rules are out of step with the rest of the country, according to Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Assn. Most states allow residents to police their own backyard barbecues, she told me.
And the problem is heightened by the patchwork of regulations in northeastern U.S. Delaware, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island are the only states that have outright bans on all consumer fireworks.
"It's absolutely ridiculous the way the Pennsylvania law is structured. They're saying that there are one set of items that are OK for our residents to use, yet we can legally sell a vast majority of fireworks to nonresidents," Heckman said.
"It's a wink-and-nod enforcement in terms of saying it's OK to sell them, but we don't want our residents to use them."
It's also offensive. Pennsylvania law deems residents of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and New York more fit to buy, transport and set off consumer fireworks than the locals. But plenty of us bought and lit fireworks when we were kids, and we should be able to share the experience with our kids today.
The fireworks laws are also maddeningly inconsistent. Forget that Pennsylvania's simply encourages border jumpers to slip in from neighboring states with harsher laws. Or that, in Heckman's words, Ohio's "weird law" stipulates that residents "can only buy sparklers, and, if they purchase anything else, it has to be taken out of the state within 72 hours."
Pennsylvanians can legally buy, register and fire a gun. We can head to a bar and get drunk. Nobody's stopping us from visiting one of the eight state-licensed casinos and blowing a paycheck or two playing slots or betting on horses. But bottle rockets are too hot to handle? Ridiculous.
This isn't to say that everyone is fit to light up next Fourth of July. Nor is it meant to minimize circumstances that claim the lives of professional fireworks operators like David Allen Walker, who died on Saturday after Quakertown's grand finale tragically misfired.
But rules that encourage residents to break their own state laws aren't the answer. Nor is an outright ban, which has clearly proven unenforceable in the states already trying it.
Let Pennsylvanians buy their back-yard fireworks in their own back yard. The state could use the tax revenue. And in an era of smoking bans and restaurants forced to post the calorie content of their meals, consumers could use a little less nanny state and a little more freedom.
Isn't that why we celebrate July 4 in the first place? *
Listen to Michael Smerconish weekdays 5-9 a.m. on the Big Talker, 1210/AM. Read him Sundays in the Inquirer. Contact him via the Web at www.smerconish.com.