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This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It's true. The Founding Fathers — John Adams in particular — allowed themselves to dream of a day when the anniversary of American independence would be, "celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other."

It is extremely unlikely, though, that the proper Bostonian would have expected his posterity to abuse the freedom he helped to win by engaging in staggeringly foolish activities that would endanger themselves and their communities.

This Independence Day, in Utah and in many other places across the West, finds us dry, windy and otherwise ripe for explosions of forest, range, car and house fires that will threaten entire neighborhoods, whole communities and many thousands of acres of public and private land.

The freedoms we celebrate on the 4th of July aren't worth much if they are not accompanied by the responsibility that citizens of any nation and community should be expected to uphold. So, even if state and local officials have failed to screw their courage to the sticking place and issue bans on all fires, target shooting and, especially, the private use of fireworks, that doesn't mean the rest of us can't act with intelligence.

As this is written Monday afternoon, the recent rash of Utah wildfires has been throttled back a bit. The deadly Wood Hollow Fire in Sanpete County and the frightening Rose Crest Fire in Herriman are listed as 100 percent contained. But other fires are springing up around the state, and crews continue to battle blazes in Colorado, Montana and Wyoming.

The month just past has now been recognized as matching the record for the driest June in state history. Climate data suggest that horribly dry summers may become the new normal in the West. If so, more restrictive laws, and people intelligent enough to obey them, will become necessary.

In the meantime, we should shake the silly notion that Americans will somehow fall short of their patriotic duty if they do not set off their own fireworks. The same is true of any Second Amendment claim that folks should be allowed to engage in dangerous outdoor target shooting in times and places that threaten to cause huge fires.

Public fireworks displays, along with many other holiday activities, are available in just about every community. And the right to bear arms is not infringed by putting the guns away for awhile.

This July 4th, be independent of habit, and make the right choices.

With freedom comes responsibility
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