From My Cold, Dead Hands

Americans have become a society obsessed with this idiotic notion of “safety.” The safety hysteria became obsessive, and citizen tyrants transformed into anti-this, anti-that lobbyists, and soon our legislators figured it was their place to assist these obnoxious people, and their so-called safety organizations, by banning every activity or product that ever injured or killed someone who carelessly abused it. Hence, the Safety Busybody state was born.

Traveling back in time, I remember all of the hysteria, started by one man, which led to the evil lawn dart ban. Playing Jarts was a favorite pastime in my family and neighborhood. Then, in 1987, a 7-year-old girl was killed by some careless boys (with one of them being the girl’s brother) who were slinging them around recklessly. The father’s reaction to this was to commence an effort to ban lawn darts, which was, of course, an act dedicated to his daughter who died. So David Snow, on the basis of his child’s unfortunate incident, raged through Washington D.C., produced scores of exaggerated statistics citing the danger of lawn darts, or Jarts, and lobbied against the “killer” game. Here’s a video on that story.

I remember shortly thereafter lawn darts were banned. Here’s the official government publication announcing the ban, effective December 19, 1988. Here’s a 1988 Consumer Product Safety Commission report on the recall of lawn darts, from Franklin Sports Industries, "because the blunt metal tips may pose a risk of injury." Consumers were offered a whopping $5 to send the contraband back to Franklin Sports. Mr. Snow then took his case to Canada, getting lawn darts banned there, too, even thought the Canadian government could not produce statistics — even exaggerated ones — showing that they were a recurrent problem. It’s unfortunate that Mr. Snow’s daughter was killed, and apparently his own 9-year-old son, Paul, along with other children, was involved in the careless game that went awry. How did Mr. Snow allow his young children to get access to a very adult game, and without supervision? Weren’t the pointed, metal tips a hint that the game could be dangerous in the hands of testosterone-charged boys? As the President of R.B. Jarts, Robert Barnett, told the Chicago Tribune, “It’s a game for adults, a family game if they want their older children to use under supervision.”

In 1970, the government had already prohibited the sale of lawn darts in toy stores or in toy sections of retailers as a compromise with the Food & Drug Administration (the FDA — you read that right), which wanted an outright ban. If I remember correctly, shortly thereafter the metal-tipped lawn darts became highly un-pc, and therefore manufacturers started selling plastic-tipped lawn darts. Those things did not stick in the grass unless ground conditions were perfect, rendering them useless. In 1997, another child was killed by a lawn dart. The CPSC immediately released this hysterical bulletin. Here’s a snippet:

CPSC banned lawn darts in 1988, but some of these dangerous products may still be in garages, basements, or second-hand stores,” said CPSC Chairman Ann Brown. “Parents should destroy these banned lawn darts immediately.

I remember my mother’s reaction was to find some used sets with steel tips and buy them before they became scarce.

At the Tennessee farm, July 2009.

At the time this was going on, in the 80s, most conservatives painted these senseless, knee-jerk, safety overkill bans as ridiculously stupid and busybody-like. This was in the days when conservatives still resisted, to some small degree, moronic American hysteria. However, columnist George Will chimed in, in a column titled “A Hazard of No Toy-Size Proportion,” and supported the ban on the basis that government regulations had not prevented injury and death. This is in spite of the fact that there were only three deaths in the U.S. during many years of many folks playing lawn darts prior to the ban. George Will, in fact, followed the government’s logic in determining that lawn darts should be banned because they were recreational, they were not “needed,” and “substitute recreational enjoyment can be obtained from other products.” Reading George Will’s rationale for why bicycles shouldn’t be banned — which caused 800 deaths annually — paints a silly circle that gets no logic points.

Lawn darts have since morphed into this silly impersonation of a lawn dart. The modern version has a “wobble” non-point, designed to satisfy even the most dedicated Safety Nazi. However, don’t look for the old-style lawn darts on eBay because they "strongly support the efforts of the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) to protect consumers" and they do not "permit the listing of items that have been identified by the CPSC as hazardous to consumers and therefore subject to a recall." The eBay website specifically mentions lawn darts!

I, however, have a few very illegal sets of these puppies, steel tips and all. One set is an original set my Mom bought when I was a kid, and the others were purchased on the sly at flea markets from evil sellers flying under the radar. I still love the game. There are very large-print warnings on the front of the boxes that state "Not a Toy for Children." But then again, most adults with even minimal common sense could figure that out without the dummy warning.

I’ll give you my metal-tipped lawn darts when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.