Proposed Ohio Bill Would Legalize Fireworks for Private Use


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For the fifth time since 1996 Ohio legislators are attempting to give Ohioans the legal right to set off fireworks whenever they damn well please. The previous four efforts, most recently at the tail end of the 2014 legislative session, had their wicks snapped before anything became official.

Representatives Bill Seitz, a Republican out of Cincinnati, and Martin Sweeney, a Cleveland Democrat, co-sponsored House Bill 226. Should it pass, and we're a ways off from that, Ohio would have one of the more lenient fireworks laws on the books in the country. Some of the fine print here, via the Dayton Daily News, on the bill's provisions, which would take effect July 1, 2020:

You, as a explosion-lovin' Buckeye, could buy and use 1.4G fireworks on your property (currently, while you can buy 1.4G fireworks in state, you must, take them out of state within 48 hours, and all you can legally set off are novelties like sparklers and snakes). Sellers, meanwhile, would need to provide safety information so that you set off your favorite roman candle without losing a finger. Additionally it'd impose a 4-percent fee to funnel money toward firefighter training and institute a new committee to study and recommend additional restrictions and regulations as they are needed. Local municipalities would also be allowed to enact their own bans or limitations.

Opposition is bound to be vocal and strong. Two years ago everyone from fire marshals to the blindness organizations to the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians, not to mention those who have been directly affected by firework injuries and tragedies, lined up to remind everyone of the serious health and safety issues the bill would have created by literally making it legal to buy explosives. As it stands, around 11,000 people nationally are injured every year in fireworks-related incidents including eight fatalities in 2013 and 11 in 2014. Those and other concerns were highlighted in a 2015 editorial that called for any future version of the legislation to include a pre-set self-repeal date and a ban on aerial fireworks.

Here's just some of what Ohio politicians are likely to hear again as they consider the new bill, via Brent Larkin's reporting in 2014:

Patricia Holsinger of the Dayton area described to senators “the worst night of her life” this past summer, when one of those rockets came down on the house of her elderly parents, killing them both in the resulting fire.

A falling rocket also killed four-year-old Michael Shannon back in 1991, as Michael’s mother and sister explained to senators. It was a waste of their time. Senators were determined to give Phantom Fireworks what it wanted.

So determined that they pretended to believe the laughable lie from the bill’s backers that passage would make fireworks safer for children.

Dr. Gary Smith, director of the center for injury research and policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, seemed astonished that anyone would dare to make such a specious claim.

“It’s magical thinking, it's nonsense,” said Smith, who is also president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance and a physician considered by many the nation’s leading expert on harm caused to children by fireworks. “When you increase access and exposure to a hazard, the number of victims never, ever goes down.”
The executive director of Prevent Blindness Ohio, Sherry Williams, is already on record this time around, telling the DDN: “We know there is no safe way to use an unsafe product. Setting off explosives is a dangerous activity that serves no purpose. Fifty percent of the injuries (from fireworks) are to people who are minding their own business.”

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